Giving To The Needy


‘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 honoured 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.’ Matthew 6:1-4

Doing Good To Please God

Our Saviour here teaches the general principle that man must not engage in acts of ‘righteousness’ in order to receive the attention and praise of other men. This truth is applied to three actions in this chapter: charitable deeds, praying and fasting.

These were three major areas in which the Pharisees of Jesus’ day clearly manifested their hypocrisy and impure motives. True followers of the Lord must exceed their type of righteousness, Matthew 5:20.

Jesus declares that those who perform acts of righteousness in order to obtain praise from men will receive just that, the praise of men, Matthew 6:2 / Matthew 6:5 / Matthew 6:16.

They won’t enjoy any spiritual benefit from the heavenly Father for those actions, though they could have. God will only reward acts of righteousness that result from proper motives.

A good example of a person doing a charitable deed with a proper motive can be seen in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37. The Samaritan acted benevolently toward the man in need. Of course, had there been an audience when the priest or Levite went by, the man in need probably would have received help sooner!

Here Jesus speaks about the genuine and eternal reward in heaven, on the one hand, there is ‘blowing your own trumpet’, so to speak, this speaks of the reward being short-lived, uncertain, and unsatisfying reward of popular applause or approval.

Some believe that this practice of ‘sounding a trumpet’, Matthew 6:2, before doing a charitable deed was literally practised, others understand the reference figuratively.

In either case, the hypocrites of today don’t blow literal trumpets to foretell their acts of benevolence, yet they certainly do use methods to call attention to their generosity that they might receive personal glory.

Notice Jesus uses the word ‘when’, not if, Matthew 6:3. When we do good for someone else, ‘our left hand shouldn’t know what the right hand is doing’, Matthew 6:3. The idea here is that a Christian’s generosity should be a natural part of their life.

It should come so spontaneously, and with so little thought, that one part of the body should almost be able to engage in it without the other parts knowing. This figure of speech clearly forbids us from boasting about personal acts of goodness.

The Christian should always have respect for the greater. Christians shouldn’t give for public display, ‘look at what I’m doing’ so to speak but their giving should be as private as possible in order that our motives for giving be kept pure.

The statement doesn’t demand that good works be done secretly or that they cannot be made known by others, Mark 12:41-44 / Acts 4:32-37 / 2 Corinthians 8:1-5. Jesus is not forbidding the publicity of good works, He is forbidding the attitude that desires publicity.

Are we certain Jesus isn’t teaching us to do all good deeds secretly? Yes, even though the next verse mentions good deeds being done in secret and rewarded openly, Matthew 6:4. If we conclude that all good deeds must be done secretly, then we will contradict what our Lord taught earlier in Matthew 5:16.

A Christian’s goal in life should be to work in such a way that others will not see them but their good deeds. That’s what the focus should be on, the good deed, not the mortal man or woman doing good. This is the difference between ‘letting our light shine’ and ‘shining our light,’ Matthew 5:16.

It’s worth noting that there are essential requirements for secrecy in this area of righteousness. Secrecy in giving personal aid and assistance to helpless or unfortunate people is commanded by Christ and has these obvious qualities to commend it.

1. It assures the purity of motive in the heart of the giver by removing the temptation to hypocrisy.

2. It protects and honours the privacy of the recipient, a privacy that is crucial to their recovery and restoration.

3. It protects the benefactor from receiving a load of call upon his generosity.

4. It provides a decent basis for the development of true love and friendship between the helper and the person helped.

5. It honours this specific commandment of Christ, and, to the Christian, this is the most important of all, Romans 12:6-8.

In what ways can we give? We can give our time, our energy, our ears, our finances, food, water, shelter etc.

How does giving help us in terms of evangelism? Giving helps because when we give, we’re demonstrating Christ-likeness, we’re pointing people to Jesus through our giving and when we do it secretly, we’re helping prevent boasting in ourselves. This is one reason why giving is a gift, it’s not just the ability to give but the ability to give secretly.

Ultimately, we must desire that the praise be given to God for good works accomplished and not to ourselves, Matthew 5:16. We shouldn’t rob God of the glory that is rightfully His by focusing our praise upon the creation rather than the Creator, and we shouldn’t rob ourselves of the ‘reward’ that Almighty God has in store for us when we seek His approval rather than the glory of men, Matthew 6:4.