Christians and non-Christians like to give some kind of donation to the needy, especially around the Christmas holidays. It’s a built-in mechanism we have that’s inspired by the commercialization of goodwill, and intended for the benefit of those in need. But there are many Christians who don’t give the way they should, and so we have ask, “when is it wrong to give?”
It’s wrong to give when the thing we’re looking for is public recognition for our good works. Jesus told us in Matthew 6:4 that we should not make a public display of our giving – “That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.”
He makes it very clear in Matthew 6:1 that we should not brag or flaunt our gifts. “…do not your alms before men, to be seen of them…”
This doesn’t mean that when we’re in church and the bucket is being passed around that we shouldn’t put anything in it because someone might see us. What it DOES mean is that we shouldn’t brag to others about what we put in the bucket. We should let our gift be something between us and the Lord.
When we give our offerings or gifts to others we are actually giving them to God. He is the one who receives the gift and blesses it so that the person getting it can be blessed by it, through it and because of it. If we give our gift and brag to people, what we are doing in essence is giving the gift to people for the people’s approval and for the people’s blessing, and we have left the Lord out of it.
When we make a public statement about our good works and our gifts, the enemy is right there to take all the credit, and once we have given the intent of the gift to him it will accomplish very little in the Kingdom of God. The gift becomes lost in the vanity of the giver.
Not too long ago two well-known Hollywood celebrities made a public statement of how they had donated a specific sum of money to help the needy children in the Third World. We all read it and most of us praised these people for their generous gift and concern for these needy children – although the amount they gave was really just petty cash to what they actually have – but it was more than most people could give so they were exalted and made heroes all over the globe for their generous gift. Meanwhile, the thousands of people who gave what they had and even sacrificed their own needs for the same cause weren’t even recognized. They remain nothing while these celebrities continue to take the credit for the help that’s being given to these children.
We don’t hear the benefit of the financial gift or how the children are surviving because of it, and that’s because the media’s interest is in the vanity of these givers and not in what the gift was supposed to accomplish.
Yet, Audrey Hepburn quietly gave up her successful and glamorous career to become a missionary in the depth of Africa and was there for years before most of us knew it. There was little acknowledgment given of her sacrifice to help the needy or of the suffering that she endured there including her death. Her purpose was never to gain vain recognition or the world’s approval; she did it unto the Lord.
We should always give what we can give, and help where we can help to those in need, but always remain humble with God’s blessing on our gift. When His Spirit is in us we do all things in love and our gifts are given in love and received in love. He is our Lord and the supplier of all of our needs, and so if we have it to give, be it tangible or works, we should freely give it away because He will bless the gift, and both the giver and the receiver will benefit.
“ Freely ye have received, freely give.” … Matthew 10:8