When Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes, and proclaims “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”, he sets in motion a direct contrast between how people have been approaching worship and how God desires to be worshipped. The people had believed that they were good enough, and that if they simply set out to follow God’s law, they would earn their salvation and be welcomed into heaven. Jesus, however, sets out to show that salvation comes to those who realize that they are incapable of following God’s law and are in need of a Savior. One approach says “I am good enough” while Jesus is saying “no one is good but God alone”.
These two differing approaches have dramatically different implications. Someone who believes that they are good enough will interpret the law in such a way that they believe they are in compliance. If I usually tell the truth, I am honest. If I don’t physically cheat on my spouse, I have not committed adultery. If I pay most of my taxes, I’m not a thief. Yet God’s standard says that if you tell one lie, you are a liar. One lustful glance and you are an adulterer. One dollar of unreported income and you are a thief.
God’s standard is perfection, and properly worshipping God begins with an understanding that man is incapable of perfection. We are all sinners, and without the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we will always fall short of the mark. Therefore, we must abandon this idea that we can worship God by surrendering to Him various parts of our lives, like an hour of worship on Sunday, or some time in the morning for prayer, or even an offering of ten percent of our income. Instead, we must embrace the reality that we must be born again, dying to ourselves and offering up to God one hundred percent of who we are. With God as our Father, we give back to him all of our dreams and aspirations, our possessions, our experiences, and we invite Him to do with us as He sees fit.
This approach dramatically impacts how we view giving. If the Holy Spirit prompts us to give someone all the cash in our wallet, we hand it over cheerfully. If God is telling us to give our car to someone who needs to be able to get to work safely and reliably, we give it. Our concern is not that we get a tax deduction, or that we reach a goal of giving a tithe. Rather, what matters is being a good steward of what we have been blessed with, and using those blessings to share God’s love with His creation.
Be holy, as God is holy. Be generous, as your Father in Heaven is generous. Seek to please God alone, knowing that He will always see when you give in secret. When you realize that all that you have belongs to God, and you are receptive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit as He shows you opportunities to serve, your giving will become a reflection of a heart that desires to worship God rightly.
Peace and blessings – Pastor Aaron