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Sermon on the Mount: Give in Secret
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
Matthew 6:1-4 NASB1995
As we move into Matthew 6 of the Sermon on the Mount, I am so thrilled to be doing this deep dive into scripture. I am also humbled by how much I don’t know and I hope everyone is learning with me.
The first verse in Matthew 6 really hits home with me right now. I have just had in the past few days a rather unpleasant social media discussion with a friend and a few of her acquaintances on a very nasty Patheos article she posted about the heretical and even “pornographic” aspects to contemporary Christian music and worship (the person sharing the article is a staunch believer in a traditional Lutheran liturgy). Our particular non-denominational church thrives on their worship and music time, which prepares everyone for the in-depth word of God and for the call to salvation that always comes at the end of the message. I thought the article she posted was inappropriate and seemed like an attack on Christians who happen to have a different structure to their worship. Was it “righteousness being practiced before men” for her to post that article? Was I being too self-righteous by challenging this meme? She probably felt righteous and was startled when someone disagreed with the article, because we all live in an echo chamber these days hoping that everyone agrees with us. I don’t think my faith was elevated or changed by reading that diatribe; the author’s self-worth may have been elevated (and the person who shared it) but my soul was busy being trying to figure why both the author and the person who shared the article felt it was appropriate to demean other people’s church choices (that in our case is ALWAYS Biblical). Ok, moving on…
The translation I use (NASB1995) uses righteousness in this first verse, which is also translated as charitable acts or giving in other translations. Jesus is telling us in these verses that we should not sound the trumpets when we give or demonstrate our charity or righteousness. We are to give in secret, so that one hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing. We are told to be the light of the world, but our motives for giving should be between us and God and not done so that we get a listing in a program or an award at a dinner or a public pat on the back. I have to admit that at times in my life I craved the limelight when I did something charitable or gave a large amount of money to something. The only limelight we need is to give with pure motives and have our reward from God; our light shines from our relationship with God. Here’s what David Guzik from Enduring Word says in his commentary on these verses in Matthew 6:
e. That your charitable deed may be in secret: If someone finds out that we have given something, do we automatically lose our reward? The issue is really a matter of motive. If we give for our own glory, it doesn’t matter if no one finds out and we will still have no reward from God. But if we give for God’s glory, it doesn’t matter who finds out, because your reward will remain because you gave for the right motive.
f. Our Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly: Jesus pointed out the great value of doing good deeds for the glory of God. It is much better to receive our return from God, who rewards much more generously and much more openly than men do.
i. God does see in secret. “We should ever remember that the eye of the Lord is upon us, and that he sees not only the act, but also every motive that led to it.” (Clarke)
ii. We should not miss the strength of the promise – these things done the right waywill certainly be rewarded. We can be sure of that, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
Jesus moves on to prayer in the next verses of Matthew 6 (5-8), which will be explored in the next devotional on the Sermon on the Mount.
Commentary from David Guzik from Enduring Word is used by written permission.