27 Do all you can for everyone
who deserves your help.
28Don't tell your neighbor
to come back tomorrow,
if you can help today.
29Don't try to be mean
to neighbors who trust you.
30Don't argue just to be arguing,
when you haven't been hurt.
Canadians enjoy the benefit of receiving a generous income tax deduction in return for charitable giving. As a leader of a Canadian charity, I recognize how important this is. But I recall chatting with a peer of mine from a Christian International Development charity in Europe. Their country did not provide tax incentives. When I explained our system he said, “You can’t call that charitable giving.” I was offended to think he didn’t believe giving to my church and other charities qualified as charitable since I received a personal benefit from doing so. Maybe he was too harsh but it caused me to challenge my motives.
Has there ever been a time when the motivation for my compassion has been less than purely for the benefit of others but rather served some personal interest? Is my giving legalism? Is it simply practice? Am I afraid God and others will think less of me if I don’t?
Do I only assist or go out of my way to help when it’s convenient? What are my motives? If we’re not careful even our granting of forgiveness will have strings attached.
The Pharisees of Jesus’ day had become experts in practising benevolence for the recognition it brought them. Jesus condemned this and called us to act as an expression of our heart, transformed and committed to acting as God’s heart towards others.
We shouldn’t view these verses as four separate test questions. They are more meaningful if we allow them to turn the spotlight on ourselves and ask penetrating questions that encourage us to re-evaluate how well we project the image of Christ to others. The goal should be to move beyond religious practice into communion and community with Him and others.
Father, I invite you to probe my heart and expose the areas where selfishness has crept into my compassion, that I might become a true expression of Christ’s love to all I encounter.