So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 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. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
There is a natural quality within most human beings to read an injunction like that in the verses above, and make a sort of legal check-list, so let’s be very clear about Jesus’ intentions in this teaching: He is not making a set of rules, procedures or protocols about how to give to those in need. Instead, He is speaking directly to our inner motivation for giving. Notice that whether or not to help those in need is not even mentioned; it is assumed.
The ones He has dubbed “hypocrites” are helping with a motivation for self aggrandizement, they want the praise and respect of their peers, to bolster their social positions. It would seem that this might impress “society” but it doesn’t have quite the same impact on the Lord. These folks wanted to impress their peers, and evidently they have their wish; and that’s all they will get.
In the Kingdom of Heaven, God wants His people to help those in need because they love God and their fellow Men, not for any worldly ulterior motive. Consider this: Has your relationship with God ever grown closer because you were praised by men? Everyone likes a little praise now and then, and a little recognition can go a long way to encourage people along the right path, but simply doing things to become popular never quite seems to bring anyone closer to God, for God doesn’t operate that way.
Quiet sacrifice for His Kingdom’s sake, on the other hand, will bring us closer to Him if we desire nothing in return for our sacrifice. The Kingdom is a place of love, community and healing precisely because the human motivation for self advancement is not present. Where this has not largely taken hold, there is little healing to be had, and love is merely discussed in academic terms.
“Has your relationship with God ever grown closer because you were praised by men?” What a great question. Motivation is a huge topic, and the discussion most needed. I find it necessary to take my own “motivation inventory” from time to time as self can subtly slip into my day. Blessings, and may we all continue to grow in His love and maturity.
So very well said; thank you
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