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John Chrysostom: Inward Intent

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. Matthew 6:1

“When Jesus warned, “Beware of practicing your piety before men,” He then added pointedly, “to be seen by them.” On first glance it seems as if the same thing were being repeated, but if you were carefully to pay attention you will note the careful distinction. Alms may be given in the presence of others primarily to be seen by them, or they may be given in the presence of others but not to be seen, or they may be openly given in order to be seen but still not be seen, or they may be given quietly and still be seen. He is not focusing simply on the outward act done but on the inward intent.”

John Chrysostom in The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 19.2 in Matthew 1-13, volume 1a, edited by Manlio Simonetti (ACCS; Downers Grove: IVP, 2001) 124.

What God cares about related to generosity in good times and bad ones is the intent of our hearts. Don’t give to be seen. God sees and will not reward you.

Perhaps giving in secret is about being seen by God. What would change if you focused only on what God sees and what He thinks about your giving?

It might leads us to talk about the things people don’t talk enough about, like money. Pray for me. I teach Faith and Finances at Northern Seminary on five Tuesdays in June.

Register to join us if you wish. It’s not a credit course, but rather a continuing education seminar. And pray for God to work in the hearts of the students.

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Chromatius: Right-handed Giving is Righteous Generosity

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:2-4

“Here the Lord is not speaking literally of the hands of the human body. Hands as such cannot know, having the senses neither of seeing nor language. Rather, “on the right hand” means righteous deeds and “on the left” signifies sinful deeds or persons.

Thus we read it written in the book of Kings that “hand” means people when it says “Do not I have ten hands in Israel?” [2 Samuel 19:43] that is, ten tribes of Israel. Therefore, there is no doubt that “on the right hand” means “the just” and “on the left” means “sinners,” according to what Solomon related: “The Lord acknowledges the divisions soon the right; the perverse are those who are on the left” [Ecclesiastes 10:2; Proverbs 4:27].

The Lord makes very plain the meaning of this “right” and “left” in the Gospel when He declares that the just are to be placed on the right, the sinners on the left [Matthew 25:33]. If something is to be accomplished according to the teaching of the Lord, then the right hand of the just must not know what the left is doing. That is, in order to labor religiously and faithfully, we should not boast in the sight of sinners and unfaithful people.”

Chromatius (c. 400) in Tractate on Matthew 26.5.2-4 in Matthew 1-13, volume 1a, edited by Manlio Simonetti (ACCS; Downers Grove: IVP, 2001) 125.

I read a great article yesterday by John Rinehart in the NCF Saturday 7 about “Should all your giving be in secret?” based on today’s Scripture text. I appreciated the content of the article which drove me to read ancient biblical perspectives on the “right” and “left” because I think commentators, such as Chromatius, draw out why Jesus said what He said.

Right-handed giving is righteous generosity. If our left hand is in the loop with regard to our giving, it will reflect worldly influences, sinful motives, and unrighteous desires. These negative factors must not be allowed to inform or shape our generosity. If we allow them to, we will shift the focus of our giving to be about us instead of about God desires.

So giving in secret does not mean that we don’t talk about giving. Jesus certainly does. The key is that we don’t make it about us. The teachings of Jesus must guide our giving. We must avoid worldly thinking on money. If we fail in this, we will store up treasures on earth (left hand) rather than store them up in heaven (right hand). And we will hoard (left hand) instead of help (right hand) in times like these.

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Iain M. Duguid: Covenant of Peace

I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of savage beasts so that they may live in the wilderness and sleep in the forests in safety. I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. Ezekiel 34:25-26

“The Lord will make a “covenant of peace” with his flock. In place of the curses of the Sinai covenant, which they have experienced while being under the judgment of God — wild animals, drought, famine, and the sword (Leviticus 26:14—35) — they will now experience the blessings of the covenant: safety, rain in its season, fruitfulness, and peace. The state of experiencing the blessings that flow from a harmonious relationship with God is what makes this distinctively a “covenant of peace.”

The covenant is thus not so much a “new” covenant as it is the experience of the blessings promised in the original covenant. In place of the monarchy divided by sin, God’s people will be under one shepherd. In place of an undistinguished procession of monarchs, they will be given a ruler after God’s own heart, a new David. In place of famine, plague, drought, and the sword, they will see a new level of peace and prosperity so that they will no longer bear the reproach of the nations. Then indeed they will know that the Lord their God is with them.”

Iain M. Duguid in Ezekiel (NIVAC; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999) 396.

As I continue to explore the season after a plague in the Scriptures, here is what comes into view and how it relates to generosity.

God wants His people to humble themselves, to fast, pray and confess their sins, and to return to Him in order to experience “times of refreshing” (Acts 3:19).

The season after the plague is characterized by peace and showers of blessings. It is a time of opportunity related to extending generosity.

He will accomplish this. It is the work of Jesus through His body. It’s us, Christians, all over the world, who have found peace with Him as our shepherd.

Father, forgive us our sins, and heal our land. As you bring renewal and refreshment, by your Holy Spirit, make us generous sharers I ask in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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Derek Kidner: Fallow Ground

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you. Hosea 10:12

“So verse 12a is as positive as it is practical, and 12b is as generous as it is urgent. The expression ‘fallow ground’ was extraordinarily well suited to describe a people doubly impervious to the good seed of God’s Word, both by the tangled growth of worldly notions and preoccupations which had taken hold of them, and by the hard crust beneath it all, of wills and attitudes never broken into penitence.”

Derek Kidner in The Message of Hosea (BST; Downers Grove: IVP, 1981) 98.

The sky was stunning on the morning walk yesterday, pictured above.

Perhaps God has led me to a place of praying for rain in this COVID-19 season because we are all praying for a time of refreshing. We are asking Him to deliver us from challenging times and distracting things. Hosea tells us what to do in the meantime. We must sow righteousness and break up our ‘fallow ground’ by seeking the Lord.

Kidner notes that we can become tangled and preoccupied with worldly notions. What about you?

Hosea teaches us that when we so righteousness that God does two things. Firstly, He will come. That’s a powerful picture. When we seek Him, we experience Him. And, secondly, He will rain righteousness on us. So, wherever you are today, do the faithful activities that God desires and trust Him to come to you and rain righteousness (or that which is good).

As weather forecasts go, there is a 100% chance God will do His part. Will we? 

Sow righteousness. Break up your fallow ground. Seek not worldly things, but seek the Lord.

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David G. Peterson: Regular Provision

Yet He has not left Himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy. Acts 14:17

“God has not left Himself without testimony meaning that in the bounty of nature there was testimony to both the being and the nature of God. God has continued to show kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons. Something of God’s character is demonstrated in the regular provision of life’s necessities. The result of this care is that He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy. God’s goodness is experienced by everyone who enjoys the benefits of living in His creation.”

David G. Peterson in The Acts of the Apostles (PNTC; Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 2009) 410.

In today’s Scripture, Paul proclaims these words to the people of Lystra. He describes the goodness of God, in part, by talking about His care for creation in general and people in particular. We must remember this, especially during a pandemic.

This message is relevant today. Even in hard times, we can look out on creation and celebrate a caring Creator for His “regular provision” for us. We can pause in a pandemic and see how He has our good in mind even now. Let us humble ourselves before Him and respond like Him.

To exhibit generosity that reflects this same love and care means that we keep our wits about us in this crisis. Rather than hoard in fear, we dispense provision from God and show care to those in need around us with the same love. We do this to spread abundant joy.

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Gerald H. Wilson: Rain is an indication of God’s blessings

The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of His bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. Deuteronomy 28:12

“Deuteronomy understands that the abundant rain from the heavens is an indication of God’s blessings. The New Testament understands the divine desire to do good as extending to the unbelieving world when Jesus calls His followers to mirror the love of God, who “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).

Gerald H. Wilson in Psalms, volume 1 (NIVAC; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002) 374.

God sends rain to bless the work of our hands. It’s a beautiful picture of the way in which we have a responsibility in God’s economy. But it also rightly implies that fruitfulness is impossible apart from Him.

Notice in today’s Scripture that rain helps us be productive so that we lend or share but do not borrow. So why would God provide rain for the unrighteous as well? Why would He cause the sun to shine on them too?

He wants them to know Him! When I walked in God’s creation yesterday (pictured above) I marveled at the beauty of God’s handiwork and how rain brings life to everything. Take time during COVID-19 to see this.

Get up early and watch the sun rise. Sit out on a porch or covered area during a gentle rain. Or just ponder the power of God in this pandemic. God wants people to know His love and to submit His reign. His ways aim at to help them flourish.

Since we may not be going anywhere for awhile and since the seasons are changing in many places, have a conversation with a neighbor or friend at social distance. Talk about rain and your responsibility to be fruitful stewards who share richly.

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Dallas Willard: Drink it in

Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name. Psalm 97:11-12

“It is fitting that you arise with thankfulness and praise to God. This is fundamental and will be a natural (and supernatural!) beginning to your day after having retired in faith and prayer. The supposition is that when you wake rested you are apt to find the morning beautiful.

If you are not rested, you are likely to find it less pleasant; the light will be an insult to your eyes! Assuming you are rested, you are able to get up in time to enjoy the freshness of the new day.

You may walk out in your backyard or on your veranda where you can look upon the goodness and greatness of the world. Try to find a place where you can listen to the birds, of the soft breeze, or the patter of the rain. Drink it in for a moment, and just say, “Thank you God for this new day. Thank you for this new beginning.”

Dallas Willard in Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2018) 201.

As I have been praying for rain for the global network I serve, I rejoice that God has sent some provision for GTP. He is so good and faithful.

He sent water in the form of rain where I live this weekend. Sunday it poured most of the day. I went for a long walk in it watching the earth drink it in.

We must do the same thing. We must pray for God to supply what we need and when He does, before we can be generous we must drink it in with gratitude.

Thanks God for giving us rain when we need refreshment and light to our eyes for a new day. Thanks for your generosity, new every morning. Amen.

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Gordon Wenham: The Right Season

I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit. Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land. Leviticus 26:4-5

“For maximum effect the rains must come at the right season. Verse 4 promises this, and the consequence is described in verse 5; the farmers will have to work non-stop to gather in all the crops. The grain was usually gathered in early summer, then there was a gap of two months until the grapes and olives were ready to pick. Once the rains began in late fall or early winter, sowing would commence. The magnificent harvests will mean that there will be no worry about food supplies. Jesus also promised that those who put God’s kingdom first need not worry about food and clothing (Matthew 6:25-33).”

Gordon Wenham in The Book of Leviticus (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979) 329.

God promises His people in the Old Testament that He would provide what they needed in the right season. Likewise Jesus makes a similar promise to those who seek Him first.

The journey of generosity has times of hard work, times of rain, times of harvesting, and it always requires faith. This faith is rooted in God who promises to do His part in the right season.

As we start another week, let us pause to give thanks that we serve a dependable and generous God.  We who trust in Him need not worry. As He blesses us with provision, we get to bless others.

To share where I am at, I have been praying for rain for GTP, for God to supply through the gifts of His people. In precipitation terms, clouds are forming and it’s started to sprinkle. Would you pray with me?

Just as outlined in Leviticus, there are seasons for work, seasons for waiting for rain, and then comes the harvest. I’m in that praying for rain part and watching it start before the harvest.

If you are a ministry worker, board member, or fellow servant who can likely relate, reply with your story. I will pray with you. Together our faith will grow as God brings rain in the right season.

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Christopher Ash: Trusting or Too Clever

But if I were you, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before Him. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted. He provides rain for the earth; He sends water on the countryside. The lowly He sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety. Job 5:8-11

“If I were you,” He says, “I would turn my face toward God and seek His face. I would trust in Him. And I would try not to be too clever.” He is the God who gives water to enable crops to grow; He is the God who lifts up humble and lowly people. But He is also a God we cannot understand; He does many things, and we cannot search them out and understand them. So let’s not try to be to clever and arrogantly think we can be wiser than God.”

Christopher Ash in Job: The Wisdom of the Cross (PTW; Wheaton: Crossway, 2014) 110.

The problem of humanity, especially in times of crisis, is that rather than take a trusting posture, we act too clever instead. We try to work things out rather than wait on God. Make it rain, God. Lift up the lowly.

Father, forgive us for trying to figure everything out. Teach us simply to trust You in crisis, so that when you bring rain, we can be generous to others. Give us the patience of Job. Hear my prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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Scot McKnight: Fervency

Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. James 5:17-18

“The rhetorical function of this example is not to make Elijah a hero but to encourage the messianic community that they too can pray for miracles and that God hears their voice as he did in the days of Elijah. In fact, James’ point is bigger: those who do God’s will are exhorted to pray as Elijah did, with fervency, and they too can bring healing, both physical and spiritual, to the community.”

Scot McKnight in The Letter of James (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011) 451-452.

There are a lot of ministry workers worldwide who desire to be agents of help, hope, and healing, but their material resources are limited.

In real-time we put to work what we have while also praying with fervency for things not to happen and praying for things to happen.

When we live and lead this way, it strengthens our faith, keeps us humble, and brings spiritual and physical healing that glorifies God.

That’s why Elijah was here, and it’s why we are here too, so that our generous service points people not to us but to the power of God.

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