As many of you will know, our area was recently devastated by multiple tornadoes in the space of 24 hours causing not only the loss of lives not only in our own congregation but also with the loss of property, businesses and the consequential assaults upon the dreams and hopes of many. Pastorally, I wanted to share two, hopefully encouraging, thoughts with you out of the context of Matthew 6:1-4. Please take a moment to read this text and then my two thoughts.
“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. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right had is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-4
My first thought is just a pastoral observation of thanksgiving to the Lord. The immediate, unhesitating and sacrificial response of our congregation to the call to “love one another” and to reach out to neighbors with ever expanding initiatives has been more than encouraging to me…it has also been instructive. We have enjoyed the privilege of partnering with other churches and organizations but I am reminded once again that nothing can replace the motivating love of Christ for eliciting sensitivity, flexibility, compassion and generosity toward others in need. My pastoral privilege has been to observe it, participate in it and be instructed by it as it has been gloriously manifested and continues to grow though the crisis has passed. I thank the Lord for the many of you who have given of yourself, your resources, and your heart to the many who are still in desperate need of redirecting our hopes to the unshakable Christ and responding to the pressing needs that this devastating phenomena has produced under the hand of a sovereign God who is accomplishing many things in the midst of it all.
My second thought is one of gratitude not only to the Lord but also to you. I am so grateful that you, who served the Lord in meeting the needs of many who were devastated in this disaster did so by pointing them to Christ as you ministered to them. One of my great fears as a Pastor is that we would intentionally or ignorantly violate the principle clearly stated in Scripture that when we do mercy ministry we are not to be like the Pharisees and “blow a trumpet” calling attention to ourselves and/or our organization. I am so grateful that you have done what you have done in a manner purposed to exalt the preeminence of Christ and have not fallen into the trap of exalting ourselves or using the occasion as a commercial to promote our church. I am also grateful that there were no well-meaning but I believe counter-productive t-shirts pointing to our church or ourselves individually but only your words and deeds directing men and women to the love of Christ and the Gospel of Christ. “Your reward is great in Heaven.”