One of the biggest complaints about religion is that they’re always asking for money. But the only time Jesus asked for money (he asked for a coin in Mark 12:15) it was for an object lesson.
However, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus discussed giving to others in need. Giving is our religion toward others (Matthew 6:1-4). Praying is our religion toward God (Matthew 6:5-15). Fasting is our religion toward ourself (Matthew 6:16-18). (Note: I use ‘religion’ for our works for God.)
“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” (Matthew 6:1-2)
Jesus calls people who give so others will notice a ‘hypocrite’. In Jesus’ day, a ‘hypocrite’ was an actor who wore a mask of the individual he was to be betraying. It soon came to mean ‘laying aside your true identity and assume a false one.’ In a play, deceit it is an accepted fact. We know actors are not themselves, but playing a part. But in life it is a deliberate attempt to deceive people. The Greek for “to be noticed” is theomai and is related to our word ‘theatre.’ Jesus is warning about practicing a form of righteousness whose purpose is to show off before men.
Many Christian organizations use unChristian methods to support their ministries. It boosts our ego to see our name as subscribers to charities and supporter good causes. It is just as wrong to appeal to wrong motives as to have wrong motives. This does not mean we should not honor people. Temporary rewards do not replace eternal rewards.
“But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:3-4)
Give Dutifully. Jesus did not say ‘if’ you give, but ‘when’ you give.
Give Secretly. Not only don’t tell others of your giving, don’t tell yourself. The question is not what the hand is doing, but what the heart is thinking. The most satisfying giving and the giving that God blesses is that which is done and forgotten. It is done in love out of response of a need, and when the need is met, the giver goes on not wanting for recognition.
Give Hopefully. Jesus rewards giving, but not like us. There are different ways to reward. The only reward genuine love wants when making a gift to the needy is to see the need relieved.
Give Lovingly. Christians are bombarded by appeals for money. We are to give to our local church (1 Cor. 16:2). We are also to give to those in need when we have opportunity and ability. God, however, does not need our gifts, because He is entirely sufficient in Himself. The need is on our part and those we serve in His name (Phil. 4:7).
Giving is part of God’s cycle of blessing (Prov. 11:25). As we give, God blesses. When God blesses us we give out of what He has given us.
7 Principles to guide us in non-hypocritical giving.
- Giving from the heart is investing with God (Luke 6:38).
- Genuine giving is to be sacrificial (2 Sam. 24:24; Mark 12:41-44).
- Giving has no relationship to how much a person has (Luke 16:10).
- Material giving correlates to spiritual blessings (Luke 16:11-12).
- Giving is to be personally determined (2 Cor. 9:7).
- We are to give in response to needs. We are to determine if and when real needs exist before giving money (2 Thess. 3:10).
- Giving demonstrates love, not law. The New Testament has no commands for amount or percentage of giving. The amount is determined by the love of our own hearts and the needs of others.
The heart is the key. The principle of reward is, if we remember, God will forget. But if we forget, God will remember. Meet every need and leave the bookkeeping to God (Luke 17:10).
“From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.” – Arthur Ashe
You can read my other Sermon on the Mount articles: Life Redefined: Sermons from The Sermon on the Mount.