1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven. 2 So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. 3 But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Several years ago I was asked a question by a college student, “In the eyes of the church, is it better to be generous or compassionate?” The question perplexed me, because generosity starts with compassion. I was interested in the source of the query, so I asked the young man what he felt the difference was. He replied, “I’m asking because I see the Christian school just named their new gym after the person who was the largest donor. They are having a banquet in his honor. Does this mean he is more righteous in God’s eyes for donating the money to the school?”
This thinking is how some Christians view giving. Since I knew the donor personally, I informed the young man that the money was donated in private. The school just wanted to do something to thank him for his generous gift. The person did not attend the banquet to receive praise. Rather, he wanted to speak on how to be faithful in response to what God gives.
Often we find ourselves wanting to be thanked for what we do, only to gain little or no fanfare or public recognition. But as stewards of what God has given us, we need to remain humble. Our righteousness is not determined by the size of the donations we give to the church or to other ministries. Our righteousness comes through our relationship with Jesus Christ, from whom we have received the gift of grace. When we try to “buy” our righteousness, the only reward we might receive is public acclaim. Such fleeting human adulation can never be compared with the approval of our Lord, who sees in secret. His approval alone satisfies the deepest desires of our hearts.
The Nashville area has suffered greatly this year, first with the tornado and then with the Coronavirus. When the tornado came through East Nashville, there was a response from the community unlike any since the flood of 2010. Hundreds of people showed up to pick up debris and bring supplies and food to those who were impacted. When these people did these things selflessly, thinking only of those in need, in essence they were acting as the hands and feet of Jesus.
However, there were some who chose to impress others by letting the media know they had just given a large sum of money to help those affected by these disasters. Jesus addressed this attitude specifically in Matthew 6:2. “Whenever you give to the poor, don’t blow your trumpet as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may get praise from people. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get.”
Jesus exposed the underlying motive of people who expect some form of return for their generosity, or at least an affirming response. Our desire to give should come from our hearts. Second Corinthians 9:7 puts it this way: “Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver.” We are also called to give in private so it’s only known by the person receiving the gift and God Himself. Then, as Jesus said, “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
As our Father, God is intensely interested in us. He is present even when no one else is. When we think no one else knows or cares what we do, God our Father is watching.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- When you give, is it with a glad heart, or are you merely checking a box off for what you feel is required?
- If someone comes to you with a need, what is your first reaction? Is that how your Father would respond?
- Do you see giving as more important than getting out and doing something for the Kingdom?