This morning’s Lent-appropriate devotion comes from Jeremy Coleman.

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.  Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others.  Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward (ESV).

In giving of all kinds—money, time, energy—Jesus here is basically saying, “It must be so pure that even your hands are ignorant of your actions. When you achieve this, when you un-self-consciously live out a life of giving, then God will surely reward you.”

Fight-Sneak-Peek-Modern-Family

For years during my youth, I thought this passage referred to some strange tithing ritual, where you planned to somehow forget which hand had actually deposited cash in the offering plate. If you did this correctly, God, seeing fulfillment of his tithing prescription, would make the money expand. Understanding this, I was maxing out my heavenly 401K every week, and God was matching my righteousness with his heavenly contributions.

The absurdity of “right” giving is no less absurd to me now. Christ here is describing an impossible act, one in which I fail miserably. The only way I can truly give to the needy and not announce my offering with acclamation, is if I am completely taken out of the equation. This is a gift of grace, to give away something that you don’t think is yours, but came separately and inspired its own will, making me merely the vessel of the gift.

The good news of Jesus Christ is this gift from without. No longer must I fret upon “right” giving in hopes of gaining God’s favor—God has already rewarded me through the justifying gift of his Son. Oddly enough, this one gift of grace has a peculiar way of inspiring giving of its own.