Matthew 6:1 – 4:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 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. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
In these words, Jesus is asking us to look into the heart of giving. Here, Jesus assumes we are going to be gracious and generous. He doesn’t command that we give. He shouldn’t need to. If we are putting Christ on in our lives, we will be a people who give. Rather than focusing on the act, then, here Jesus focuses on the motivation behind giving.
Giving for the Right Reasons
We understand the joy of giving. We see this joy in giving in several places in the New Testament. When the church is striving to form, we see the early Christians gladly sharing with one another. We know the praise Paul gives the churches in Macedonia for their generosity in his labors. And we also know that we are supposed to help both Christian and non-Christian alike. What really matters is what leads us to give.
At the end of Matthew 5, Jesus directs us to love those who would harm us and then to be perfect as our God is perfect. This heart of giving is part of that perfection. He warns us against giving for attention or praise. If we do so, Jesus says we receive a reward in this life. It’s an immediate reward, but it negates a better reward. Instead, Jesus directs us to be generous in humble secrecy. Then will our God praise us.
The Humble Christian
True Christianity does not seek praise or attention. True Christianity does not boast or call attention to self. Christianity instead points attention to God through humble conduct, through grace, and through self-sacrifice. This goes beyond our generosity. As we’re going to see when we examine the following verses, it goes to all acts of righteousness. Whether we are preaching, giving, leading a prayer, or studying our Bibles — we can do all of these things in a way that draws attention away from God and to ourselves.
When was the last time you gave something anonymously? We live in a one-up culture, and it’s a temptation to carry this over to our giving and other acts of service. Our pride wants to give voice to our accomplishments. As Christians, we should be willing to lay aside that pride and conduct ourselves in all humility, even to the point of anonymity.
I might not be able to keep secrets from my own hands, but I can keep my pride in check. Rather than impressing others with my generosity, I should be honoring God in giving. We’re not seeking to impress God with our humility, but our humble conduct honors God. This takes focus off of self and places the credit entirely on God, for, if the recipient has no credit to give for their blessing, then who else can they praise but God? By taking self out of the equation, we become God’s hands. We become His arms, and we see the work that we do as His rather than ours.
I Peter 4:10 – 11:
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.