1Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
our charitable deeds
When we do charitable deeds or, as the King James puts it, give alms, we are showing compassion for and helping the poor on a practical level. This is clearly something God expects us to do; otherwise, He would not have expressed it as He did. Too, it’s not just “do charitable deeds,” but is “do your charitable deeds.” So each of us is to be doing charitable deeds, giving to the poor in some manner, and each of us is to do our own charitable deeds—the ones the Holy Spirit prompts us to do.
I’ve been on both ends of this. I’ve been the poor who gratefully received the charitable deeds and I’ve been the one cheerfully doing the charitable deed. Being on the receiving end requires great humility and the squashing of pride, but being on the giving end can require the same. My usual feeling, when I’m able to be a blessing to someone in need, is joy, but does pride never try to creep in the edges, whispering things I don’t need to hear? I wish.
to be seen by them
To me this seems to be the most significant part of the command. Why am I doing the charitable deed in the first place? Am I doing it so that man can see and be impressed? If so, and if I do my charitable deed in front of man, seeking his rewards, then I have the reward I sought—and only the reward I sought. My Father in Heaven cannot reward me, because it is not His reward I am seeking. That’s a heavy-duty revelation, and one that takes me right back to a study I’ve done on motivation. It is a fact; in anything I do, the most important factor is the reason I do it. Why do I do what I do?
You know, it doesn’t take much thought to realize that it’s foolish to “do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them.” After all, who in their right mind would take man’s reward over God’s reward? But we do. All too often, I do. Where I should be walking in humility of spirit, doing what God desires only because He desires it, I sometimes catch myself showing off…doing a thing more because it will make me look good in the eyes of man, because man’s reward gives instant and obvious gratification. The problem, of course, is that this is also fleeting gratification. When the man is gone, and the honor is gone, there is nothing. But with God…
2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed…
When, not if. The Teacher rephrases and restates so that I will not miss the point. WHEN I do a charitable deed…
…do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
And again He makes His point. If I choose to draw attention to myself and my charitable deed, I am no better than the hypocrites Jesus had to deal with continually. How many times have I read about them in the Scriptures and been completely disgusted? May I never be so disgusting!
3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
There’s that humility stuff again.
When I do a charitable deed, I try to not even let the recipient know what I’m doing. I have a trusted “right hand” who usually passes such blessings along for me; I have been other deed doers’ silent right hands as well. I know this isn’t the literal meaning of this verse, but it surely fits the spirit.
4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.
Again, what wise person would pass on this promise? Jesus says here that if we do our charitable deeds as He tells us to then our Father will reward us and will reward us openly. Yes, true humility requires no reward, but I’m not talking about true humility right now; I’m talking about true human nature.
The instant-gratification world we live in has trained most of us too well; we take the instant gratification even when it’s bad for us or leaves us wanting more. On the human level, it may seem silly to wait for God’s reward when man’s is right there, yet man’s reward cannot compare to God’s promises.