“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “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 men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
After being away on business, Tim thought it would be nice to bring his wife a little gift.
“How about some perfume?” he asked the cosmetics clerk.
She showed him a bottle costing $50.00.
“That’s a bit much,” said Tim, so she returned with a smaller bottle for $30.00.
“That’s still quite a bit,” Tim complained.
Growing annoyed, the clerk brought out a tiny $15.00 bottle.
“What I mean,” said Tim, “is I’d like to see something really cheap.”
The clerk handed him a mirror.
The story above is supposed to be a joke. Albeit, its probably got a lot of truth in it. What motivates you to give? When you give, how do you do it? Would you be seen as somebody who is a great giver? Average giver? Cheap giver? When you give, do others role their eyes as you give it, or do people whisper about the gift, wondering where it came from?
DRINK IT IN:
In this teaching of Jesus, it seems His focus is on motive. The first sentence of this teaching has a critical word structure to it that should give us a hint towards what Jesus is trying to say. Jesus says, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, TO be seen by them.
Jesus is not concerned about us doing acts of righteousness in front of people. How do I know this? Because He says so in another passage of Scripture. In Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Motive matters to Jesus. He makes it very clear. If we do any acts of kindness for the purpose of being thanked, or to get attention of any kind, then that is the only reward we are going to get. I sense a hint of sarcasm in Jesus when he refers to the “hypocrites” around the synagogue and on the streets. I think He is referring to the Pharisees and religious leaders. These men had created a pretty strong negative stereotype with the common man of Jesus’ day. I don’t want to be judgmental, but it seems these people, that Jesus calls hypocrites, might be comparable to the stereotype of a politician today whom enacts laws for the public but doesn’t have to follow them himself. There is a strong push in our country right now about creating a 28th amendment to the constitution that basically declares that congress cannot enact a law unless they have to obey it themselves. I think that would be a good amendment. Without something like this, it becomes very easy for leaders to become hypocrites and act in ways that are embarrassing to themselves and the system that allows it to happen. Jesus can’t stand hypocritical behavior.
Jesus is warning His followers to be people who give and do good deeds for the purpose of honoring the Father Heaven, period. Jesus tells us to do it in secret. I think that you will agree with me that anonymous giving is mysterious and fun. Too often, when we give, and the receiver knows we are the ones who gave it, it turns into an uncomfortable situation where the receiver feels obligated to say thank you and maybe even feels obligated to pay you back in some way or another. I think the best way to avoid this uncomfortable situation is to simply give it anonymously.
SWEAT IT OUT:
Is it wrong to give to the church and in return have your name inscribed on a brick paver, or on a plaque so that everyone can see that you gave to the project? No, it is not wrong. Jesus simply warns us by telling us, that brick or that plaque with your name on it, is the only reward we are going to get for that specific gift. That’s a good reward, but at the cost of a great reward. I love to say, “The enemy of the great, is just the good.” Another good example is this whole idea of thank you cards. My grandma is the queen of giving gifts and expecting thank you card immediately in return. I have even received phone calls from my grandma because I didn’t give her a thank you card for the 20 dollar bill she gave me for a birthday present. That’s an awkward phone call. There is nothing worse than writing a thank you card because I am expected to. I want to write thank you cards, but not because I’m supposed to or expected to. This concept seems to have crept into birthday parties as well. Birthday parties used to about inviting your friends and they would bring some fun gifts. Today it seems that the parents of the kid having the birthday, are required to give party favors and gifts to those who show up. It all seems like a grand showcase to see who can outperform who, so pictures can be taken and pinned on Pinterest or updated on Facebook for the days bragging rights of best giver and provider of a soon to be forgotten experience. All for what? To get up tomorrow and do it all again. I don’t trust the motives behind it all.
Jesus tells us, in other passages of the Bible, to store up for ourselves treasures in Heaven. Heaven is eternal, and there is a reward system for all who live eternally in Heaven. Think of it this way with me. Imagine Heaven having an enormous bank in it. You have an account in this bank. I don’t know what form of “reward material” there will be in the bank. That’s what money, in the form of paper and coin is, right? A reward material. So imagine with me that there is a bank in heaven. It is currently accepting unlimited deposits. Everyday, you, through your acts of kindness…done in secret…are depositing into your eternal bank account. When you secretly give a bike to a kid in the neighborhood, Jesus, the banker in Heaven, notices and puts a deposit in your eternal bank account. Every dollar you give towards the work of the Kingdom of Heaven, and given discreetly, is a deposit in Heaven. I personally think, when you give a kind word to somebody discouraged, and you do it without seeking any reward, that Jesus puts a deposit in your bank account in Heaven. When you pull over and help the stranded stranger on the road fix a tire. When you pull the weeds in your neighbor’s yard without anyone seeing you do it. When you pay for the meal of the person behind you in the drive through. When you volunteer at your local church. When you send money to a foreign missionary. When you give a drink of water to a homeless person. When you visit a stranger in the hospital or in prison. The list is unending. These acts of kindness are causing deposits of treasure that is being stored in Heaven for later use! Eternal use.
jesus says, store up for yourself treasures in Heaven. Jesus says, when you give, do it privately, for if you do not, whatever earthly reward you received for giving, is the only reward you will get. Thus, you didn’t get a deposit in your heavenly spending account. Randy Alcorn actually wrote a book about this called the “Treasure Principle,” that I would highly recommend to you for reading. He also wrote a book titled, “Heaven,” that might help you understand what I’m talking about when it comes to “banking” in Heaven. I have found the Bible teaches Heaven in a very different way than what the average person thinks Heaven will be like. Randy Alcorn’s book called “Heaven,” will help you piece it all together from a biblical perspective, and not some false teaching of what others say it is.
So, why do you give?
What motivates you to give?
The answers to those questions determine your eternal rewards and the amount of your eternal rewards that are being stored as treasure in Heaven.
I encourage you to be motivated more by long term investing in this case. The short term investment, the earthly reward, is so short lived.
I want my Father in Heaven to see my secret deeds and then receive the reward from Him.
Something about that thought, makes my heart beat faster.
May your life be filled with anonymous giving and quiet encouragement. Be a sly and sneaky giver. How fun!
What an impact you will make.
The rewards will be even better.