Going to finish this section today, leading up to the Lord’s Prayer. I started yesterday and didn’t make it beyond verse one. So, we will start in verse two. Funny how that works…
“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. The giving of “alms”, giving to the poor. It’s something we know we should do, if you’re like me you don’t do it as often, as freely or as joyfully as you should. But also if you are like me, when you do give to the poor, there are no trumpets blasting to announce it. This sounds so bizarre to us as to be beyond credibility. But, apparently, it’s true. During Jesus’ day, there were people who, when giving to the poor, would blow trumpets and be very loud about the fact that they were doing their “good deed”. They wanted to be sure everybody knew what “good people” they were. But Jesus called them hypocrites. But here is something about the word “hypocrite” as we know it today – Jesus created it. In His day, a hypocrite was simply a stage actor, someone who pretended to be someone they were not. Someone whom these days we would confer millions of dollars upon, adore, and someone upon whose opinions and views we would base our own views and opinions of the world around us. All because they were, by trade, good at being fake. In Jesus day, there were several theaters where these “hypocrites” worked. So, when he takes that term and applied it to the moral behavior of those who were doing their good deeds to be seen and earn the approval of men, his listeners knew exactly what he was talking about. And to this day, we know the term hypocrite means someone who pretends to have certain beliefs or virtues when they most certainly, in truth, do not.
We don’t blow trumpets today to announce our good deeds. Or do we?? What an honor it is to have one’s name put on a building. Or a school. Or a charity. Or the wall of your local library. The wall of fame at a local church. Honors conferred on the basis of you contribution. Net worth as self worth. We have many ways of seeking glory from the giving of our gifts.
Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. When we seek the rewards of men, we can get what we want. We can get the blessings of men, and the ego that grows with it. What can’t be seen is the shrunken soul underneath it all.
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. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Dallas Willard here uses the example of an old comedy routine about telling a kid to stand in a corner until he can go fifteen minutes without thinking about a pink elephant. Of course, the kid would never be able to come out of that corner, because as we try not to think about that pink elephant, that’s all we think about.
And that’s the point Jesus is making when he says don’t let your right arm know what your left arm is doing. As we try not to think about what our left arm is doing, that’s all we think about. As always, Jesus cares nor about the outward action but the inner heart. As God works within our life, doing good becomes more and more who we naturally are. When we first begin walking with God, we might be more conscious of the good we do for others. If we try to make a law out of not drawing attention to ourselves for our good deeds, then all we think about are the good things we feel we are doing, and because we are doing so much “good” we just have to tell somebody about it. But as you become more of the person God wants you to be, the good you do just begins to flow from who you are. You don’t think about what your right hand is doing – your right hand just does it. It’s not even conscious. You don’t think about being sure it’s secret because Jesus says to do it in secret. Whether it’s secret or known is irrelevant to that which you are doing. You’re just doing what you do because that’s now who you are. You’re not a stage actor playing a role, you’re a child of God doing what God’s children do.
“”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. 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. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Matthew 6:1-4 ESV