verse XXVI – What’s My Motivation?
“So whenever you do charity, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, so that they may be glorified by men. Amen, I tell you, they have their reward in full! But when you do charity, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your charity may be in secret; and your Father, who sees in secret, shall reward you.” Matthew 6:2-4.
What’s our motive?
In my previous article, we considered Matthew 6:1 and the practice of righteousness in the public square. Yeshua/Jesus warns about doing it to be seen, and thereby rewarded by men. While our righteous deeds are often done for, or directly impact, those around us, we should do the righteous deed as unto the Lord.
Yeshua now addresses our motivation for doing what we are commanded to do by the Lord. As we have considered previously, some Pharisees and scribes used outward observance and apparent religious devotion, to gain approval and acclaim from men. What Yeshua is asking of us, is that we do our spiritual and religious acts of devotion before the Lord alone – let our pious acts be done secretly, and with purity of motivation for His pleasure.
When you give.
As we consider these verses, we notice a positive injunction, a correction and then a warning. Matthew 6:2 says, “And when you give charity…” setting Yeshua words within the parameters of a specific act of giving, or another way of expressing this, “And when you give to the needy,” the assumption is not “if” we will give, but “when” we will give; we find that as followers of Messiah we are to be generous givers and supporters of the work of the Lord, directly impacting the human other.
There will always be.
In Deuteronomy 15:10-11 and John 12:8, we read that there will always be poor and needy people around us. Some will have fallen on temporary times of economic struggle, as we are witnessing today; while others seem to be caught in the cycle of poverty. We are to be, as the Scripture says, “openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” Yet, the Lord places restrictions on this type of openhandedness, in order that we are not taken advantage of.
So we are to be charitable, to the best of our ability, and with this obedient “secret” act the Lord has promised, again, a reward, recognized openly. As we read in Proverbs 19:17, “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.” Still, we notice that our action is done as unto the Lord Himself.
A positive command, then a correction:
“Do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men.”
This is rather strange imagery, giving charity while sounding trumpets, what might it mean? The image is of one hiring musicians to go before and make a spectacle in order to gain attention. Yet, the hearers would have understood what Yeshua was referencing. Charity boxes, either in the synagogue or Temple, were often brass receptacles resembling a trumpet, wide at the bottom, tapered at the top. If one wanted to be recognized as giving charity, one would deposit coins in such a way as to sound the trumpet, causing everyone to turn and look. This, as Yeshua says, is not giving unto the Lord. The attention gained in the act will be their only reward – marked, as it were, “paid in full.”
Yeshua is calling us to a deeper, and more subtle walk with the Lord, a maturity of faith that is ever aware of His presence, and actions which reflect that awareness. As we give, let us not “toot our own horn,” and make a show of our giving; but rather, be aware that the Lord sees us and will, in His time, reward our actions of faith.
By using the term “hypocrite,” Yeshua is explaining to us not to pretend devotion. The Greek root of hypocrite meant “an actor” or one who put a mask over. Yeshua is explaining that their giving was a mask over their lack of faith. He is correcting our motive, our devotion, our behavior, and calling the inward man to repentance.
Scripture is clear that right motive is necessary in our actions before the Lord. As we learn in the Torah and the Apostolic Scriptures obedience to God is from the heart (Deut. 6:5-6; Matt. 5:8, 28; 6:21 12:34-35; 15:8, 18-19; 22:37; Rom. 6:17; 10:9-10). Yeshua is warning us to avoid the hypocrisy of the religious elite, and return to a pure, humble devotion before the Lord. Our faith-obedience should not be connected to our social standing.
A cheerful giver.
The apostle Paul explains that the Lord loves a “cheerful giver,” someone who gives with honesty and joy of spirit – not begrudgingly, in an attempt to be honored by those around us. The underlying Greek is the root of our English word hilarious; creating the picture of free and unreserved charity.
Yeshua concludes this thought by explaining something rather ironic. If we do our deeds in order to be seen by men, then we will lose the reward promised in heaven, but we will receive a full reward: the reward of acknowledgement from men. As we know, and recognize in our pop-culture today, people are the greatest one moment and forgotten the next. The cheerful, hilarious giver is not concerned with the thoughts, agreement, or acknowledgement of those around them, they are in the moment of joy.
If it is the acclaim of men you are seeking, you will receive it, but it will not last.
My friends, being a disciple of Messiah is not easy, as it demands so much of us, but let us not lose hope or grow weary as we follow Him. I humbly submit that our weariness in faith comes when we struggle against what Messiah has directed us to do. Have you ever found that it is easier to just do those things you dread, than it is to sit and dwell over how much you hate doing them? It can be more exhausting thinking about them, than actually doing them.
Yeshua offers us these words of encouragement when He said, “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” Scripturally, the right hand represents power, while the left, weakness. Do not let the weaker side of your heart – the side of fear of loss or need for acclaim – know what you are doing in the strength of faith. Do not attempt to strengthen your weakness with the rewards of man.
But wait, there more.
Sometimes the acknowledgement that we receive from men, unsolicited, for what we have done unto the Lord, is His way of demonstrating His pleasure in what we have done. Let us do the good works of heaven faithfully, for His glory, and let us shine as a light in order to give people hope, and let them glorify the Lord.
Shalom. Be well.