The Gospel of Matthew: Giving to the Needy.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” (Matthew 6:1–2 ESV)

Jesus began this second major division in His Sermon on the Mount with a warning to His disciples. What was Jesus warning His disciples to not practice? It was the sin of religious hypocrisy. It was a continually practiced by the Pharisees; in their giving to the needy (vv. 2-4), prayer (vv. 5-15), and fasting (vv. 16-18).

Giving to the poor and needy continues to the present day. The word needy (ἐλεημοσύνη; eleemosyne) means charitable giving. It is an act of mercy to those in physical need (Acts 3:1-2). Such giving, especially during the holiday season near the end of the year, can take many forms. It may be through Thanksgiving Baskets, community Christmas Bureaus, rescue missions and other benevolent organizations. Most importantly, it may be through individual acts of kindness. These personal acts of mercy may, and can, occur throughout the year.

Jesus cautioned that such acts of kindness should never be done with the intention of being seen and recognized. Rather, they are to be done discreetly and quietly. Jesus called people hypocrites who serve for recognition. A hypocrite (ὑποκριτής; hypokrites) was the word for the Greek actor. It was an individual who pretended to be someone they were not. This was a duplicitous, insincere person (Matt. 6:2; 7:5; 15:7; 23:13; Mark 7:6; Luke 12:56; 13:15). While praised on the stage, in real life such an individual is condemned. They evidence their unregenerate condition.

“Perhaps no one sets out to be a hypocrite. Thy hypocrite may start well, doing good innocently. Later, he thinks, it would be good if others knew what I do. My example might inspire them. Finally, he takes steps to insure that others see and praise his piety. We trade the goal of pleasing the Father for the goal of pleasing men,” explains commentator Daniel M. Doriani.

“If we perform for man’s praise, we will receive it. In conversations, we may find ways to tell stories about our work in the soup kitchen; if we are intent on it. The audience may be impressed and may praise us, but that will be then end of the praise. The Father will not honor us in the next life, for we offered our good deeds to humans and not to Him. But if we act righteously in secret, for the audience of One, He will see and reward us. So let us avoid displays of holiness.”

Have a blessed day as you serve for the audience of One.

Soli deo Gloria!    

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