While we are using “Service” as this week’s Spiritual Practice heading, the traditional Lenten discipline is actually known as “almsgiving.” Beyond financial support of the congregation and its ministries, almsgiving is about sharing our possessions with people in need: our financial and material resources, as well as our time and talents, to alleviate the suffering of others. Almsgiving, done unreservedly and joyfully, will cultivate a spirit of generosity in the giver—and bring us closer to “walking in the sandals” of Jesus.
Read Matthew 6:1-4 in the NRSV or even the KJV (both available for free online); both refer to “alms.” Now look up definitions for alms and almsgiving on your favorite search engine. Make notes in your journal. Next look up “Charity.” Does this word have a positive or negative or neutral connotation for you? Look up the etymology of charity (how the word developed from its original source, Latin, to English). Does the idea of charity as Agape—the Christlike love we are called to embody with one another—change your understanding?
Read Matthew 6:1-4 again. Look at your bank and credit card statements; do they reflect a commitment to almsgiving? Do an honest assessment of your giving to the poor—when was the last time you remembered to bring an item for the Cockeysville Food Pantry? When was the last time you responded to a relief effort or volunteered time to a local mission? And did you do these things in secret or did you expect someone to notice (and perhaps applaud your efforts).
Journal your answers and pray for a willing and generous spirit.