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Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Your Alms Have Ascended

The things you do for me stand a good chance of being forgotten.

I may not appreciate them the way I should. That Christmas sweater was a little too red and a little too heavy for me, so I never wore it. The gift card was for a shop I never go to, and it’s still sitting on my shelf. The DVD was something I already had, but I didn’t want to mention it.

I didn’t need what you gave me, so I said a quick thank you and forgot about you.

Sorry.

God Is Nothing Like Me

Thankfully, God is nothing like me, or like so many others I know. Since he needs nothing, no one gift offered to him is in or of itself better than any other. When he remembers the things we offer him, it is for reasons other than that they meet or do not meet perceived needs.
Your alms have ascended as a memorial before God”.
That’s what the angel told Cornelius. Later, retelling the story, Cornelius says, “Your alms have been remembered”.

Either way, that’s a pretty impressive thought. The fear of God caused Cornelius to give generously to people who needed it. Belief demonstrated itself in works. Ultimately, God arranged it so that Cornelius and his family and friends could hear the message of salvation through Jesus Christ from Peter. God didn’t leave Cornelius to appear before him with only dead works to show but granted him and his household opportunity to exercise living faith.

“What about those who have never heard?” That’s one answer, I suppose.

Quantity of Alms

I don’t think it was the quantity of alms given by Cornelius that got the attention of Heaven. The Lord Jesus sat down opposite the Temple treasury to watch people put money into the offering box. He watched them all, rich and poor. But he singled out the poorest person among them, a widow, for approval. The large sums given by the rich were unremarkable to him, presumably because they did not arise out of the same sort of devotion.

The Grand Gesture

And it’s not just alms. The Lord Jesus showed the same concern to acknowledge and mark out the gesture of the woman who anointed him with expensive perfume at Bethany. He says:
“Wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
Not only does the Lord remember that one, he makes sure the rest of us do too.

A Love for His Name

In fact, the New Testament writers assure us that God does not forget anything that arises out of a love for his name: work or service to other believers.

To do so, the writer to the Hebrews says, would be “unjust”. God is not unjust.

When we say that God will “not forget”, we are not really talking about memory, are we. God never forgets in the way I forget: a synaptic lapse, an unexpected distraction or a dearth of interest. If he can be said to “forget” anything at all, it is only those things he has determined he will not take into account or hold against us because of the work of his Son.

Memory and Reward

So it’s not about memory, like me and that thank-you note I never sent. Rather, when the scripture says that “God will not forget”, the suggestion is that he will not neglect to reward those who act out of love for him. As Paul told the Galatians:
“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
We have a God who remembers and rewards. What we do out of love will never be forgotten.

Come to think of it, maybe I should try on that red sweater …

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