“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 6:2-4 (Jesus speaking; our 14th segment of the Sermon on the Mount)
Remember that Jesus’ words above came in the context of what we read yesterday:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”
– Matthew 6:1
Jesus is pointing out behavior that apparently was as commonplace in 1st-century Israel as it is in 21st-century America – that is, public displays of generosity.
People want credit for their good deeds. And Jesus Himself describes giving to the poor as a rewarding activity. The important distinction He makes, however, is whether our reward is coming from other people or from God.
We know how other people reward us for giving to the poor. They put our names on plaques, or, if we give enough money, they name a building after us. They put our names on their public lists of donors – with special lists for those who give the most. They give us bumper stickers to put on our cars displaying what organizations we’re supporting. Sometimes even the poor themselves thank us.
Jesus has a different idea. He thinks we should be looking to God for our recognition – not others. Where would He get such an idea? Where He got all His ideas about God: from what we call the Old Testament. As it says in the book of Proverbs:
One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord,
And He will repay him for his good deed.
– Proverbs 19:17
Should God owe us for being gracious to the poor? I don’t see why, but, apparently, He thinks so…and that’s what matters! Besides, it’s tawdry to be seen giving to the poor; it’s much more becoming when God’s the only one who knows about it.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord, I love that I can trust you to notice my good deeds…(this is where you remain quiet to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.
(All scriptures, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the NASB.)