Second to fasting, almsgiving is probably the most overlooked and under-appreciated act of piety. Along with fasting and prayer, almsgiving is one of the three practices that Jesus highlighted in the Sermon on the Mount: “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:3-4)
We are so often utilitarian and consumer-focused when we think about charitable giving. But Jesus’ words remind us that generosity is a spiritual discipline. It is first and foremost about the orientation of our hearts toward God’s own heart.
I am honored to represent the Financial Discipleship Team in our conference. We are a part of the Christian Formation ministry of the Connectional Table. This relationship is intentional. We offer significant stewardship training and resources for clergy, laity, and churches. But these all come from the core belief that almsgiving and generosity are personal spiritual disciplines. Blessings like church growth and church financial strength are the gifts of our generous God. But they are not the true root from which a healthy theology of generosity sprouts.
Henri J. M. Nouwen wisely pointed out, “As our prayer deepens into a constant awareness of God’s goodness, the spirit of gratitude grows within us…In ministering to each other, each from the riches that he or she possesses, we work together for the full coming of God’s kingdom.” (A Spirituality of Fundraising. Upper Room Books. 2010)
We pray that God will grant us all a holy Lent and call us to God’s own heart from which all generosity comes.