Matthew 6:1-4 - Look At Me!

Jesus said: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others 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 others. Truly I tell you, 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.

We have heard this passage so often that we believe we understand what Jesus is trying to say here: not to put on public displays of our acts of holiness but to be a little discrete. Of course, that is the primary lesson, but we might obtain a few more jewels if we dig deeper.

One. Do note that when Jesus talks about almsgiving, prayer, and fasting, he is not saying we need to be discrete *if* we choose to do them, but *when* we choose to do them. This means these three things are not optional to the believer. We need to give alms, we need to pray, and we need to fast. When was the last time we did any or all of the three?

Two. God takes note of these three things that we do and rewards us accordingly. Of course, we know that God takes note of our prayers and fasting, but almsgiving? There is a beautiful example of how almsgiving and prayers work together. Remember Cornelius, whom God sent to Peter to receive the good news of salvation? He had a vision where an angel appeared before him, saying, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God” (Acts 10:4).

Why so? Prayers have little meaning unless they are accompanied by demonstrations of faith. Let me explain. When we pray, it is usually seeking blessings. And God blesses us. But when we receive blessings and hoard them for ourselves, refusing to share them with others, we show ourselves selfish and greedy. How can we do that? 

Three. God wants to reward us, but only when we seek to be rewarded by him. When we seek rewards from human beings, we forfeit the rewards God wants to give us. The logic is simple enough if one takes a moment to reason it out. Whose appreciation do we seek when we do things—and not just “holy” things, but everything? God’s appreciation or man’s? If we seek man’s appreciation and receive it, then we have already got our reward, haven’t we? End of story.

Getting God’s appreciation is better. It is less fickle too. Let us go for that instead.

May the Spirit be with you.