Matthew 6: 1- 4
Jesus calls us to righteous giving. So, what have you done about it?
This passage in Matthew 6:1-18, is in a set of three–giving, praying, and fasting. This is common, classic, Jewish teaching, which Jesus is following. Three has the significance of adding more emphases in power and meaning. The Romans did not believe in charity. They felt that people should work for their food and wages. If a person was poor, it was because they were too lazy to work, or their family forsook their responsibility. However, wealthy Greeks and Romans would build public works projects such as gyms, bathrooms, and housing, to gain popularity and support for their aspirations–personally and/or politically. As you can see, human motivations and thinking have not changed in thousands of years!
Alms, or charitable deeds in most manuscripts, are from the Greek word eleemosunen, which refers specifically to almsgiving, or charitable deeds. While there are some older manuscripts that the NASB uses that have the Greek word dikaiosunen, which refers more to righteousness. The difference is that one is speaking in specific terms, while the other is more general. Since the context of the passage refers to several points from specific to general, either word would fit the context. However, there is greater textual support for the word dikaiosunen.
We are not to exhibit righteousness, just to be seen by others! This does not mean to avoid all or any practice of righteousness (Matt. 5:16). Rather, it is to avoid doing them JUST to be recognized and self-glorified. We cannot secure the praise for God when we are trying to secure praise for ourselves! The consequences for our misplaced motivations are that we miss our real, and true reward, which is far richer, better, and more lasting than temporary human praises. What we do in secret will be made known (Ecc 12:14; 2 Cor. 5:10) to God, and even to others, if God so desires.
No reward: This was a proclamation that submission to God was more crucial, and essential for life and faith, than personal agendas. By giving to the poor in secret, we are showing our love to God, rather than seeking personal glory (Psalm 41:1-3).
Trumpet Jesus is using ‘hyperbolic speech’, which is exaggeration, to make His point. Obviously people did not blow trumpets when they gave, but they did make it known when, and how much, they gave. Also, the charity box at the temple was in the shape of a trumpet! Jesus is the Master teacher, and He often uses humor and word plays to get His point across that are clear in the Greek, but not in English.
Hypocrites: This literally means acting, or an actor in a play. It is one who claims to have a relationship with God, and to be following His precepts, while actually doing the opposite. The ancient actors did this by holding up masks to proclaim their part in the play, and their expression of feelings, while their real feelings were hidden. The hypocrites in the Church seek themselves, and their agenda, under the façade of being a Christian. Sometimes their evil is so ingrained in them that they do not even realize they are hypocrites, as Jesus points out in chapter 23. Some of the religious people in Jesus time were very charitable. The Pharisees would give 10–20% percent to God (Luke 18:11-12). They tithed everything, even seeds (Luke 11:42). However, their deeds did not please God because their motivations were wrong!
Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing: This is another word play. Many Middle Eastern cultures ate with one hand and wiped their rears with the other. You did not want to do these at the same time, or with the same hand! This means not only avoiding the praise of others but from yourself as well (1 Tim. 6:17-19).
In classic Jewish thought the right hand represented a good deed, and the left, my good opinion about the deed. This does not mean we are reckless with our financial giving. Rather, it means that it becomes second nature, without much thought, as anything we do in righteousness (Acts 2: 44-45; 4:34-37).Reward in full, or He Himself will reward you: This refers to the theme of a business transaction that has been repaid, a receipt for it.
What do you need to do to make sure your motivation is submission to God, because that is more crucial and essential for your life and faith than any personal agendas?
We are not to be reckless with our financial giving. Rather, it should become “second nature,” without much thought, as anything we do in righteousness should be. So, how can your giving reflect God’s precepts?
What are the different ways to give? Remember, money is only one aspect of giving. We also have time, talent, and treasures. Can you think of others?