By Fr. Abu
“Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven…” (Matthew 6:1).
In the very first book of the Bible, we are presented with a story of two brothers, Cain and Abel. The two brothers offered sacrifices to God, but while that of Abel was accepted, Cain’s sacrifice was rejected by God. As to why Cain’s sacrifice was rejected, we do not know, but St. Paul gives us a possible clue in today’s first reading:
“Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). If there is a type of giving that God loves, it follows that there is also a type of giving that does not please God. Giving to God or giving to promote the work of God is a spiritual act. It is a means through which we connect with God and like all forms of communication, it can either be good or bad.
The first thing we must bear in mind when giving to God is that God does not need our gifts themselves, but He is interested in the spirit with which we give. Hence as St. Paul teaches us today, we must avoid giving with reluctance (that is, giving as though we are forced). All our giving must come from our heart, we must be happy about it. God loves a cheerful giver, not one who feels pained giving.
How do you feel when someone gives you something while squeezing his/her face? Some persons may even consider such as an insult. How much more God in heaven who created us by whose power and grace we live!
On the other hand, in His sermon on the mount, Jesus warned about loud giving, that is, giving to attract attention; giving not from the heart, but simply to make a statement to other people. Jesus says, this kind of giving is not to God but to people and instead of getting our reward from God, the only reward we get is the praises of people.
“Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:2-3).
As we noted already, giving is a spiritual act, it is a form of communication with God. This is why the same principle applicable to giving also applies to prayer as well as fasting. Jesus warns about praying in public not because God does not hear prayers said in public, but because the primary motivation for such prayer is not to talk to God but to talk to people. When we want people to hear us, we only get reward from people, not from God. We are just being hypocrites when we pray to people or perform spiritual acts for people to see. Bear this in mind: it is never between you and them, it is always between you and God.