Have you ever really thought about Jesus, specifically about His emotional state, in Matthew 14:13-21?
He’d just learned that John the Baptist, His relative, the first one to recognize Jesus (in his mother’s womb), the one who prepared the way for Him, the one who baptized Him and announced to the people that He was The One they’d been waiting for, had been murdered, beheaded. Jesus was divine, but He was also human, and His human heart had to be torn.
So He set out to go to the desert to be alone. To mourn, perhaps? To talk to His heavenly Father about it? Who knows? But the very fact that He went shows that He had a need. However…
The people followed Him, and He chose their needs over His own. Honestly, He had every right to take some time off, to receive comfort for a while. But that’s not what happened.
Our church is coming up fast on a multi-layer event that raises money for our myriad missions and outreach programs, and a while back God led me to donate one of my newest and favorite possessions. I won’t lie; I choked for a moment, but I’ve learned through the years that God never calls me to give up something unless He has something better in mind, a purpose (or multiple purposes) for my actions. Besides, when you plant a seed you get a harvest – as the Bible says, thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold.
So the other day I had a thought: “I could bid on it and get it back.” In that moment, I had an epiphany. I didn’t need to. I didn’t want to. I had completely let it go and didn’t even want it back. This revelation led to an interesting conversation with God.
Long story short. Years ago, I’d been called to give away one of my favorite things and I’d done it almost instantly, but begrudgingly. For years (not kidding) I’d had this niggling thought of, “Man, if only I’d not…” In our conversation, God reminded me about that event and pointed out that I HAD NEVER LET GO of that seed. Because I had never truly let go, the seed had never been truly planted – regardless of the fact that it was in the other person’s hands. So I had never received the harvest He had wanted me to have.
So… When God calls you to give something, be it to someone personally, to a ministry, to a charity auction…whatever, LET IT GO. Don’t judge how you think that person should handle it. Don’t dwell on the fact that you don’t have it any more. Don’t let regret hang around. LET. IT. GO.
You cannot plant a seed in the ground if you do not let it go first. You cannot plant a seed in ANY ground if you do not let it go first. And if you don’t have a planted seed you don’t have that seed’s intended harvest.
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.
So, as Matthew Henry points out, Love is much more than hugs and words. Love requires more. Love requires action. 1 John 3:17-18 (CJB) says…
If someone has worldly possessions and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how can he be loving God? Children, let us love not with words and talk, but with actions and in reality.
I know a man who is astoundingly generous. he is one who would literally give the shirt off his back. Clearly, he has grasped this concept: “God so loved the world that He gave…” and God openly rewards him for his consistent generosity.
In studying the Jewish roots of Christianity, I have discovered tzedakah. Tzedakah is about performing acts of kindness, giving to those who cannot give back to you. If I remember correctly, the widow dropped her two mites into the tzedakah box…and we all know that Jesus noticed. No matter how little we have, if we determine to sow into the lives others, God will provide the seed. That seed may be money, but it may also be mowing a lawn, helping someone move, tutoring a child, or giving a caregiver an hour of respite. This…all of it…is love.