Are You Impressed?
1“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.
2“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.
3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
We’ve all met them; the people for whom it is terribly important that you know what pious lives they live. Somehow, they let it slip how much they give to the church or make a big show about helping out the poor. They are the ones who pray out loud at every opportunity and others are intimidated by their eloquent words to God. It’s an easy trap to fall into when the opinion of others helps you feel good about yourself. Our faith lives are not immune to that prideful place.
One important aspect of this teaching that cannot go unnoticed is that Jesus assumes that charitable giving will be done by His followers. This is not an optional activity. He doesn’t say “if you give” but “when you give”. This discussion is not about whether or not you will give, but instead it is about the attitude with which you give. For some, the stumbling block comes along right there!
Jesus now addresses this topic covering three different disciplines of the faith; giving, praying, and fasting. First He deals with giving to the poor. Apparently it was the practice of some during His time to make sure that everyone knew about their charitable gifts. The praise of others was what they were looking for and Jesus warns them that this all they will get. God indeed sees when we behave charitably toward others and it is often quite easy to do so without anyone else knowing that you have given to the poor. Because the Father sees all, He knows and that is all the reward that you need.
“Jesus words assign little or no important to the opinion of others. In a culture and time in which relative status, honor, and shame were primary forces and values, His teaching is a truly radical invitation to live life in view of the status and honor that God the Father bestows.”
( Gibbs, J. A. ©2006. Matthew 1:1-11:1 (p. 312). Saint Louis, MO: CPH.)