But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth. — Matthew 6:3
During the last few years of my mother’s life, I was called upon to help with her financial matters. Since her pension was going directly into the bank, she often asked me to make withdrawals. She always stressed that I was to get a certain amount of coins and small bills. She did not give the reason, but I had a feeling why this was important to her.
Following her passing, many people began to tell how my mother gave money to the different ones in their little community, especially children, who she thought had a need. At the funeral, the pastor relayed how she gave him a little money for himself when she paid her tithes and offerings. Others remarked how they had called her to pray for them. Even though we were a close family, much of this was unknown to us. She gave to and prayed for others because she believed these were good works, not because they would give her a good name. She has gone on to receive her reward from the Lord.
Our focus verse indicates the importance of not calling any attention to our acts of kindness or charity. We must go even further, and not focus on them mentally — not even thinking of them or congratulating ourselves on our generosity. They are given to God and should be hidden in Him.
There is a promise to those who are sincere and humble in their almsgiving: the Father who sees in secret shall reward such deeds openly. We must keep our motives pure. Conceit and self-applause are as dangerous as vainglory and ostentation before men.
It is natural to hope for recognition and praise for what we do, but in our almsgiving, in our praying, and in our private fasts, we should be deaf to the applause of men — these are between God and us. To be sure we are not seeking for glory, we should perform our Christian duties quietly or in secret, with no thought of reward.
This passage is a continuation of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. In the previous chapter, Christ warned His disciples against the corrupt doctrines and opinions of the scribes and Pharisees. He continued in this chapter by warning them against hypocrisy, or using religion to cover up sin and promote personal gains. The Greek word translated hypocrite originally meant “an actor who wears a mask.” The “righteousness” of the Pharisees was insincere and dishonest. They practiced their religion for the applause of men, not for the reward of God. Within the first eighteen verses of this chapter, Jesus condemned the way the Pharisees practiced three of the Jewish traditions.
Almsgiving was the practice of giving charitable gifts, and in Jesus’ time, it was considered especially praiseworthy. “Sounding the trumpet” was a figurative way of describing the practice of calling others’ attention to what one was doing.
In teaching the disciples about prayer, Jesus condemned the insincere prayers of hypocrites. In order to teach them the proper way to pray, He provided them with a model prayer, which is known as “The Lord’s Prayer.” It is a model prayer because it contains the components and attitudes that Jesus’ disciples should exhibit and incorporate into their lives.
The model prayer consists of three parts.
Fasting (abstinence from food for a time), was the third practice of the Pharisees that Jesus condemned. Like almsgiving and prayer, fasting must come from the right motive or it loses its value. Jesus declared that the hypocrites made a conspicuous production of their fasting. They did so to gain praise from people rather than from God.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The proclamations of the King
D. The message of the King
2. The relationship of the King to the Law
c. Repudiation of Pharisaic practice
(1) Almsgiving (6:1-4)
(2) Prayer (6:5-15)
(3) Fasting (6:16-18)
Jesus did not condemn giving alms to the poor, praying, or fasting, but He did condemn the way they were performed by those who did these things for self-promotion. We must make sure that our hearts are right as we practice these good works.