The Paradox of Christian Generosity: Do Jesus and Paul disagree?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 “Make certain you do not perform your religious duties in public so that people will see what you do. If you do these things publicly, you will not have any reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give something to a needy person, do not make a big show of it, as the hypocrites do in the houses of worship and on the streets. They do it so that people will praise them. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. 3 But when you help a needy person, do it in such a way that even your closest friend will not know about it. 4 Then it will be a private matter. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you. Matthew 6:1-4 (TEV)
10 And God, who supplies seed for the sower and bread to eat, will also supply you with all the seed you need and will make it grow and produce a rich harvest from your generosity. 11 He will always make you rich enough to be generous at all times, so that many will thank God for your gifts which they receive from us. 12 For this service you perform not only meets the needs of God’s people, but also produces an outpouring of gratitude to God. 13 And because of the proof which this service of yours brings, many will give glory to God for your loyalty to the gospel of Christ, which you profess, and for your generosity in sharing with them and everyone else. 14 And so with deep affection they will pray for you because of the extraordinary grace God has shown you. 15 Let us thank God for his priceless gift! 2 Corinthians 9:10-15 (TEV)
723 You are an ordinary citizen. It is precisely because of that secularity of yours, which is the same as, and neither more nor less than, that of your colleagues, that you have to be sufficiently brave—which may sometimes mean being very brave—to make your faith felt. They should see your good works and the motive that drives you to do them.
Maybe it is me, but as I read the two passages from scripture above, I am confused. It would seem, at face value, that Jesus and Paul disagree. That Jesus is stating that we must do all our good works in private, and Paul wants us to do them visibly so that many people will give thanks to God. It would seem that St. Josemaria agrees with Paul.
So is there a difference between Paul and Jesus?
Should we do things completely anonymously, or so that people can see what we do?
Have to admit, this is one that always stumped me. I knew there had to be an answer, that scripture is not contradictory. but how do you think this through?
I think St. Josemaria hits on the answer, that what we are doing is making our faith felt.
Our actions can’t be based on the motivation of other people praising us, or others focusing attention on us. If our actions are done to focus attention on us, then, yes, it is far better that they are done in the dark. Like the priests who would pray and make a big show of donating to those in need, such acts are passing in their effect, and have no lasting impact.
Paul speaks of another kind of giving, a giving that requires bravery, of courage. Of going past ourselves, and meeting a need that isn’t just financial. To give in a way to help a person know that someone cares, and the reason they care is that of the love of God that unites us, His creation, His children. Paul wants the people in Jerusalem to know that their gentile brothers and sisters in the world still care, To put names and faces to the much-needed relief.
The result of which is God glorified. That is the impact of being part of, being invited into a community, a community where God’s love binds us. Where those who observe us see love that is not forced or fake, but really a reflection of the love God has for us. A love that would quietly embrace pain or sacrifice to help someone else.
God is with you – as you meditate on that, as you live in that truth, you will do things to help others, without regard to others watching. And in doing so, both Jesus and Paul’s directions will be heeded.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2631-2634). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.