This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the Four Gospels is from Matthew 5:23-26.*
Matthew 5:23-24 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
5:25-26 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”
These verses are from Jesus’ sermon on the mount, where he is teaching his followers to conduct their lives in a totally different way from the rest of mankind. I find these verses particulary convicting. The messages might not be linked, but they could be.
Jesus wisely instructs his followers to do heart surgery before approaching God in a public setting. In those days taking a gift to the temple of God could be giving a financial offering or some other offering, such as grain or an animal. It was a done for such things as thanksgiving, or perhaps it involved repentance from sin. He doesn’t want us to go through religious motions, especially in public, to make a mockery of the giver or of the recipient–God. Sin usually involves some kind of act involving another person. Jesus cares more about the relationships between his kids than he ever does about the gift being made at church, even a really big financial donation. We can be the most generous people on the planet, but if we are not reconciled to someone we have offended or who has offended us, then our faith falls short. The gift of unified friendship is worth more than any gift, and the gift given after reconciliation is sweeter, and it shows praise to our heavenly father for forgiving us.
Is it possible that our financial situation shelters our heart from where it really is with people? Can we hide within our comfortable financial zone and not worry about those we have problems with, since we are self sufficient and don’t need the other persons? Equally we can be in financial difficulty and consider that the person who hurt us, or whom we have hurt, is in a different financial class. So why should we bother. Do we feel better when we make a financial gift and think that our conscious is quelled? Interestingly, Jesus is after reconciled community, and reconciliation with him.
Getting to Matthew 5:25-26 now, if things between people have elevated to the point that lawsuits are being written up, the legal war has heightened to want of blood letting. Mutual reconciliation from contrite hearts seems to be out of the possibility. When you walk into court, how much money you will lose or gain is an unknown. You could be in the right, but lose in court and end up penniless. Even two thousand years ago, it made a lot of sense to settle matters early between parties, before emotions got heightened; attorneys make their fees from months and years of litigation. Settle matters and reconcile if possible. It honors God, and it is good for our souls, good for our giving, and good for our personal finances.
*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in his selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the fourth post in this series.