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Sermon on the Mount Conspicuous Giving

Matthew 6:1-4

Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you
do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do
not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to
be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when
you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that
your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will
reward you. (6:1-4)
Jesus continues to challenge superficial and hypocritical spirituality by addressing three
acts of righteousness well known in Jewish religious life: giving (6:2-4), prayer (6:5-15),
and fasting (6:16-18)
The common theme in all three of these practices was the motivation behind the action
to be seen and to be honored by men
There are a number of pivotal questions in life, such as is taught in Proverbs 3:4-6: Will
you trust in the Lord with all your heart, or will you lean on your own understanding?
Here Jesus challenges our motivation and presents us with a life-defining question: Are
you seeking to please God or striving to be honored by men? (Gal 1:10, I Thes 2:4)
If the goal is to be honored by men, the conspicuous givers may get what they want but
that is all they will get for they have received their reward in full
Jesus uses a marketplace term as would be used by a merchant or lender: PAID IN FULL
He makes it clear that it is either one of the other you cannot have both because pleasing
God is incompatible with self-glorification
Pretending to honor God while seeking the approval of men makes one a hypocrite (a
Greek word meaning play actor which Matthew uses 13 times in his gospel)
The hypocrite makes certain there is much fanfare with his giving; Jesus uses a hyperbole
when describing generosity as announced with trumpets, though this could refer to the
practice of demonstratively clanking coins as they were dropped in a container at the altar
Refined hypocrites would not hire trumpeters to play as they give, but are more subtle as
they strategically make known the details of their generosity to certain individuals
Glorification can go only one way either to God or to ourselves
To help us avoid this, Jesus teaches: do not let your left hand know what your right hand
is doing so that your giving may be in secret we do not even announce it to ourselves
If it is Gods approval and reward we desire, He who sees what is done in secret will
reward you (6:4)
We need to contrast this teaching with the message of being the light of the world (5:14)
Jesus taught the disciples to allow their loving actions to be observed: Let your light shine
before men so they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven (5:16)
The difference again is that of motivation, not self-glorification to be seen by them and
to be honored by men (6:1-2), but God-glorification (5:16)
How do we know when are actions are a shining light (5:14) or selfishness disguised as
benevolence (6:2)? We ask ourselves this question: am I seeking to please God or man?