As we move through this sermon that now finds us in the sixth chapter of the book of Matthew, Jesus continues to press into his point that those who choose to follow his way, follow God’s way, will not only not be doing certain things, like murder, call a brother a fool, commit adultery, lust after another person, divorce for no reason at all, or break an oath, but will do things in a much different way from both their fellow Jewish friends and Gentile ones as well.
Christ followers will be those who go the extra mile, give without expecting anything in return, and love their enemies. In all of this, a righteousness above that of the scribes and Pharisees is achieved.
Today, though, Jesus puts a twist to all this doing of good—We have to do it in secret.
Take in these words he spoke:
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. But when you give to the poor, don’t 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 CSB
When Jesus says “be careful,” he’s basically giving a warning. Righteous acts that are done in the open receive no reward from God. Why would he say such a thing? I have some thoughts on the matter:
- When people know we’re the one doing the good deed, there is an expectation of appreciation.
- An expectation of appreciation comes from pride.
- Pride promotes self over both the true motivation for doing good (our love for God) and the recipient of the good deed (the other person).
- Receiving praise for a good deed defeats the purpose of helping another person and prevents the glory from going to God alone.
We have to be careful, because it’s so easy to forget and do something good in a careless, public way instead of hiding it and letting God use it for his purposes.
It’s like looking both ways before we cross a street—doing good in secret keeps us from being hit by ego and pride, so be careful and think before you act.
In comparing secret acts of kindness to the public ones of the hypocrites, Jesus reveals the higher and long-lasting value of God’s rewards to the earthly, temporary thanks of man. Humanity is so fickle. One minute they are praising you and thanking you for healing them or feeding them from a few fish and loaves of bread, and the next they’re screaming “crucify him!”
Why should we seek their praise? It’s God’s favor we should seek, and he is unchanging and steadfast in his love toward us.
So, in all the good deeds we perform, let’s do it for God alone. In that way, our righteousness will reflect his righteousness, which is as it should be.
Grace and Peace