True Generosity Is Marked By Self-Forgetfulness

Daily Reflection- 11/6/2023

Sacred Scripture

Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees. He said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14: 12-14)


I love this passage from Luke!

Once again, Jesus challenges us to take another step forward in our growth as Christians in two ways. He does this, first, by warning us about having ulterior motives in relation to how we act towards one another. We must not seek reward for our actions towards others but always do what is best for them and treat them with the respect they deserve without expecting anything in return.

That’s a difficult truism for many. Because there is in every human heart a terrible and powerful tendency to live by the law of earthly repayment, the law of reciprocity. There is a subtle and relentless inclination in our flesh to do what will make life as comfortable as possible and to avoid what will inconvenience us or agitate our placid routine or add the least bit of tension to our Thanksgiving dinner. The most sanctified people among us must do battle every day so as not to be enslaved by the universal tendency to always act for the greatest earthly payoff. Far too many preen to have their feathers noted. Far too many live each day hoping that they will be noticed, acknowledged and singled out for some virtue. Some cannot function in a day if they are not noted.

Jesus wants us to follow him into a more redemptive purpose in our relationships. He challenges us to bless, benefit, and befriend those who cannot repay us for our interest, concern, and kindness. Doing so leaves the rewards of our actions as the intrinsic blessing of helping someone else and a deep trust that what we do and how we do it matter to our God — and God promises to remember.

His words remind us that authentic generosity is marked by self-forgetfulness.  The follower of Christ does not practice charity in order to be noticed.  Just the opposite ought to be true. In Matthew 6:3-4 we read “When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you”  We must not seek reward for our actions towards others but always do what is best for them and treat them with the respect they deserve without expecting anything in return.

Second, His words urge us to open our hearts to those people in our lives who might not come immediately to mind as someone to get to know, to minister to, to love. Christ reminds us to welcome those people into our lives who might have a different faith or come from a background which is radically different than ours. Christ showed no discrimination in whom he loved and invited into his life, and we are called to follow his example.

You will be blessed because they cannot repay you! What an amazing thing for Jesus to say! We get ourselves braced for some good, solid self-denial. We screw on our willpower to exercise some disinterested benevolence. And Jesus turns around and says: Your self-denial for the poor will bring you great blessing. Your benevolence is not, nor ever could be, disinterested. Indeed, your eternal interest is at stake. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). “If you lose your life (in love) for my sake, you will save it” (Mark 8:36). So in the end, for those who obey, there is no self-sacrifice. Who wouldn’t count everything as rubbish to gain Christ.

Prayer of The Day

“Jesus, how often my giving is tainted by self-interest and the hope of favors in return. You gave to me without hope of return. I can do you no favors, but you taught me that love means giving without expectations, that there is more happiness in giving than in receiving. Help me to grow in charity. Teach me to give generously with no thought of recompense or self-glory. Create in me a heart of selfless love.”

Daily Note

The people who lightly dismiss this text as a rhetorical overstatement are probably blind to the impossibility of overstating the corruption of the human heart and its deceptive power to make us think all is well when we are enslaved to the law of reciprocity, the law which says: always do what will pay off in convenience, undisturbed pleasures, domestic comfort, and social tranquility. Jesus’ words are radical because our sin is radical. He waves a red flag because there is destruction ahead for people governed by the law of reciprocity.

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