“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
When I was back in Bible college (Mark Moore) our professor spoke on this text. He clapped his hands dully. “This is your reward,” he said, “if your giving is before men. Is it what you want?”
It was a reality check. It was the most uninspiring clap and to think that this is all there is if we do something for the honor of men? It felt so empty. Because it was.
We do not give for the honor of men but from the overflow of God’s love for us.
Question for Myself
When reading this text the first question in my heart is, “Lord, am I giving for the honor of men and trying to bring honor to myself?”
I see businesses do this all the time. When they give they make sure the whole world knows it. “It helps build momentum,” they say. Yes, but it also is subtle, or not-so-subtle pride. But do I do this too? Just more subtly?
It’s a worthy question.
The thing that stood out to me today is that the Scriptures say, WHEN you give to the needy (v. 3). It’s assuming that giving to the needy is a regular practice. So my next question:
Am I giving to the needy?
Most people give to the needy around Christmas or maybe a few bucks when a missionary comes through, but are we really giving to the needy intentionally? Or only when someone presents us the need?
Again, am I giving regularly to the needy? Not just my money, but giving me?
How Do We Give to the Needy?
Early in my college days I came to the realize that many people when they put clothes or food into the donation box at church or at the Salvation Army, they give their leftovers. It’s the worst, out-of-date clothes that NO ONE wants and the cans of food are usually lima beans and black-eyes peas, food that many people dislike. But is this giving to the Lord? He gives us his Son to die on the cross and we give him our moth-balled clothes and food we don’t like?
What Do We Give to the Poor?
Somewhere in my Christian journey I learned or was taught not to ask the Lord for money, but for the need. I need a new computer, instead of asking for the money to get a new computer. I realize there is much more pleasure in the Lord in this as he loves to provide creatively. Not only that but it protects my heart from making money my God.
In the same when we give it doesn’t always need to be money. Money may not be the best thing to give the homeless person on the side of the road. Perhaps a meal is better, a gift card, socks (a frequent need) or some other form of needs fulfilled. One thing we do is always keep water in our car to provide the homeless on hot days. But yes, there is more to give than money. Although at times money is the right thing to give. But when we give, let it be good things we give. Just as the Lord gave to us.
Who Do We Give to?
When we give something of value and someone is not grateful, it is grating on one’s nerves. I remember giving my very favorite shirt to a woman who wanted it, but then she never wore it and didn’t say thanks. It still is a mild irritant.
But the Lord says we give to Him. Whether the recipient is grateful or not, it is God who is the rewarder of what we do. This is important as if we look to the people we give to, if their response is not gracious we may be tempted to stop giving to people altogether. Look how many people have stopped giving to the homeless? And even more?
WHEN we give…it’s to Him.
How does Mt 6:1-4 connect with Mt 5:16?
It’s plain that we are to do our acts of righteousness in secret. But how does this connect with what Jesus has just said?
Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Aren’t these two statements contradictory?
In this part Jesus teaches the humility and motivation of the giver. If our motivation is to be seen by men, there is no reward for us other than a few claps. When Jesus is speaking of being the light of the world, I believe is letting us know that we cannot hide our faith. Remember, this comes right after 3 verses dealing with persecution. We cannot let darkness snuff out the power of light by putting the light under a bowl.
Truly representing God’s character is to be generous, but to be generous with humility. God is pleased with generosity. He just wants us to make sure it is motivated in pleasing Him. And honestly, isn’t it fun to have some generous moments that only God knows about?