Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 6:3 “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy
right hand doeth.”
When we give, take little note of it, and make no big deal of it. As to what our right hand is giving, keep our left hand in the dark. Do not even let our own self know, as it were, what we are giving. Let God handle the accounts and keep the ledgers in His “book of remembrance” (ML 3:16). He records and He rewards.
As we empty our hands of money, let us empty our hearts of pride. Otherwise, acts of worship degenerate into acts of vanity. No patting self on the back, no self-satisfaction, no smugness; otherwise, self-admiration leads to ostentation.
After talking with God (EX 34:29-35), Moses did not realize the skin of his face was shining; once he was told, he put a veil over it. May we radiate in such a way that our shining is almost unseen by ourselves, and self-veiled with humility.
Since walking and talking are functions natural to our physical body, we do not congratulate ourselves when we do them. Similarly, good deeds and giving are merely functions natural to our spiritual nature, and should thus be considered as nothing more than ordinary, everyday activity. Our Master commanded us, “When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (LK 17:10).
Having done a good deed, dismiss it from our mind, and press on to the next objective. Be like a vine which, once it makes a cluster of grapes, quietly and with no fanfare proceeds to make another cluster. Paul was “forgetting those things which are behind” (PH 3:13). The most honored on Judgment Day will be those who have in essence forgotten the good deeds they did. When complimented, all they will be able to think to say is, when did we feed, clothe, house, and visit you? (MT 25:34ff). Do everything in order to please God, and then forget about it.
Matt. 6:4a “That thine alms may be in secret:. . .”
I remind us again, Jesus is dealing here with motives. Previously He told us to do things publicly (MT 5:16). Here He urges privacy. Obviously, the appropriateness as to which to choose is determined by the motive which impels the deed.
Privacy in and of itself does not make a gift worthwhile. Some use secrecy to hide how little they give. Being public does not in and of itself negate a gift’s worth. It is impossible to judge a person’s heart by external appearances. We can not know a person’s intentions, and thus should not try to judge their motives.
As previously noted, a good rule of thumb is to hide when tempted to show, and to show when tempted to hide. Another hint is to do nothing artificially or unnaturally. We should neither trumpet our holiness nor smother and cover in darkness all our kind deeds. We must learn to be our normal Holy Spirit ennobled self.
We should be doing good deeds so often and so commonly as to be unconscious of them ourselves. If our motive is right, it will matter little to us whether our deed is public or private. Often our deeds need to be private, but many times they need to be public. The church is ever in need of people who lead by example.
The early believers did not always hide their donations. Jesus commended the widow who gave two mites in public view (MK 12:43). He praised Zaccheus, who openly vowed to give half his wealth to the poor (LK 19:8-9). Jesus also complimented Mary, who publicly poured costly perfume on His feet (JN 12:7).
God favored Cornelius, who was well known for giving “much alms to the people” (AC 10:2). Dorcas “was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.” Her death chamber was filled with people who had been knowingly blessed by her (AC 9:36-42). Barnabas’ large gift was known to everyone (AC 4:37).
At times we need to be challenged by a public example. Sometimes privacy is needed. Guard our hearts. Motive determines the worth or worthlessness of all.
Matt. 6:4b “. . .and thy Father which seeth in secret. . .”
Since only God knows our motives, He alone can determine an appropriate response to our deeds. He “seeth in secret.” It can be a frightening thought. He sees the real meaning of our lives. The hypocrite’s mask hides nothing from Him.
The value of a deed before God is determined by the motive from which it springs. Ever ask, what motivates me? Some give solely because it is the customary thing to do; especially in Christ-influenced Western Culture, society expects us to give to charities. Some give to buy good will, to get more feathers in their cap. Some give in order to give a lecture, to be heard, to increase their influence and power, to have the receiver beholden to them. Thus, unselfish appearances are a cloak for selfish ambition. Some give nobly, solely to relieve human misery. Though good, this still leaves out God, and thus keeps a good deed from being a true act of worship. Always do it for God. He watches our heart microscopically.
Matt. 6:4c “. . .himself shall reward thee openly.”
God sees and rewards, even down to the cup of cold water given in Jesus’ name (MK 9:41). “Shall” does not specify the exact time the reward shall be given. Some rewards are meted out here, but much more always awaits us in Heaven.
Beware a wrong understanding of the “reward” Jesus gives. The rewards He gives are ones only spiritually minded people appreciate and enjoy. Precisely at this point the health and wealth preachers go awry. Using this world’s understanding of rewards, they speak in physical and financial terms. Often the faithful lose their fortune, family, health, yea their life, but they never lose their “reward.”
Ours is a reward of holiness, the honor of being ever more like Christ. Ours is a reward of pleasing God, of inwardly sensing His smile and satisfaction at our doing right. Ours is a reward of being able to serve Him better than ever before.
A high reward for us is more and greater work to do. Teacher’s best student is told to study more. A musician’s best pupil is given harder music. A coach’s best player is given more minutes of playing time, and harder positions to play.
The world’s reward is an easier situation, and more rest, but a paradox of Christian living is that a task well done does not bring rest and comfort and ease. It rather opens more doors and brings even more demands and opportunities. Until we die our prayer should be for more, better, and bigger things to do for God.
If our motive is right, if we give as to the Lord, the love we have for Him will cause us to feel we have never given enough. We will feel we should give more, and will want to give more, and our reward will be the fulfillment of our desire; we shall be given more and greater gifts to give gladly to Him in return.