By: Chad Hyatt
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Reflection—v. 2, whenever you give alms
Now, let’s see what it really means to ground our sense of self in the revolutionary values of Jesus. Traditionally, ‘alms’ is providing material assistance to persons in need. However, the Greek word that Jesus uses and our own English word are both derived from the word ‘mercy.’ For Matthew, mercy is a central concept that sets apart Jesus’ way of relating to others, particularly in situations of need, from other teachers of the Law, like the ever-present scribes and Pharisees (cf. 9.13, 12.7). Mercy does not ‘blow a trumpet’ to get the attention of others so that we might get human accolades or be thought of as saintly—all at the expense of the dignity of another person. This kind of alms-giving is nothing more than a transaction where someone’s need is traded in for our personal aggrandizement. Nothing could be farther from justice. But real mercy looks to put the dignity of others first and refuses to humiliate others, especially those who have already had their fill of humiliation. The merciful enter into mutual relationships rather than engage in transactions. They value others as God would, sharing generously. In turn, the one who ‘sees in secret’ rewards them with overflowing mercy (5.45, 5.7).
Prayer God, you call us to mercy, for you are merciful to all and in your mercy is life.