Today’s quote about almsgiving and sharing is from John Calvin, key figure and theologian during the Protestant Reformation days. This quote caught my eye because of today’s political/religious climate.
“Love one another” means being willing to share with others. The Christian way is a spiritual path that seeks to give to others more than to receive from them. It can be difficult to remember this in the midst of media bombardment about the latest recipes for good looks, wealth, and material things.
Will you pray with me?
Come, Holy Spirit,
remind us often
that everything we own–
belongings, money, time, talents–
comes from Creator God…
Inspire us often to share with others,
and give us the courage to let go of all that we ought to share with others.
There are many ways to “give alms”… I think the main point is to think of the needs of others and to share the gifts you have with them. Some gifts are monetary or physical possessions, like clothes and dishes. Others are the talents we have been given by God to use for the good of ourselves and others.
Jesus must have known people who were giving as a way of showing off to others. They gave to those in need (charities) as a way to prove to others they were holy, and even “holier” than those around them. As a result, they received a good deal of praise for their actions.
It’s something to think about . . . Do we give to others because we care, or do we give to see our name emblazoned in stone for others to admire? You can read more of what Jesus said in chapter 6 of Matthew’s gospel. (If you don’t have a bible, just google “Matthew 6 3 ” or “Matthew 6”.)
Today’s quote makes me think of Matthew 25… when Jesus talks about when we care lovingly for others, especially those in need, we are also caring for Christ. When we cruelly ignore the needs of others, we are also being cruel to Christ.
This is a great challenge… and a life-long kind of pursuit . . .
The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there. . . . Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights. (Exodus 24:12, 18)
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights. . . (Matthew 4:1-2)
Ash Wednesday is just around the corner, and I’m wondering what spiritual practice I might do for Lent. If you are like me, you have experienced various Lenten penances related to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving over the course of your life. Some of my experiences produced quality spiritual growth. Other times I failed to follow through or had results that were, um, a little “silly” (such as the time I gave up potato chips and ate so many chocolate chip cookies that I actually gained weight during Lent).
One spiritual practice that has been meaningful for me is reflecting on a single word, phrase, or bible verse for the whole 40 days. For example, one year I focused on the virtue of patience. I read about patience and pondered what patience is and what patience is not (laziness or procrastination). I asked God in prayer to help me be patient. When life brought me annoying moments, I tried to be patient.
One possible pitfall of this theme approach is that I might forget to follow through for the entire 40 days, but I have found ways around that. I can post my theme in places I’ll see it, such as the bathroom mirror, refrigerator, computer screen saver or cell phone banner. I can find a book on the topic and spend a few minutes each day reading about it. I can make it a point to weave my theme into prayer time and the routine of daily living. On occasion, I’ve asked spiritual people what they think about the topic.
When making plans for Lent, it’s important—as always—to ask the Holy Spirit to inspire your choices. (Why do I always think of this tip last? It should be first!) The “theme approach” may not be for everyone. Think about what will build your relationship with God, and what will deeper your love for others.
May all we do glorify God and build bonds of love throughout the earth. Until next time, Amen!
Spiritual Aerobics for Lent
If focusing on a theme doesn’t appeal to you, here are 13 other ideas:
Volunteer at a food pantry, homeless shelter, or other charitable organization.
Plan quality time with your children: eat together, use discussion starters, read together.
Organize recycling in your home in order to take care of God’s creation.
Visit a lonely or homebound person.
Reduce the amount of time spent with television, social networking, internet surfing, or video gaming.
Listen to inspiring, spiritual music while commuting to work.
Care for the body God gave you by increasing your sleep or exercise.
Read one book of the bible or other spiritual book slowly and reflectively.
Sort out closets and donate clothing to those who need it.
Teach your children a new prayer and pray it together when you gather for meals.
Be kind to someone you often ignore. Pray each day for him or her. Smile genuinely and listen respectfully to this person.
Fast from shopping for clothes (or books, electronic gadgets, makeup, etc.)
Visit a retreat center. If you cannot go away on a retreat just now, make arrangements to go on retreat later this year.