Matthew 6:1-4 When You Do a Charitable Deed WC McCarter
There is a story about a man who had some land, but he did not keep it to himself so that he may gain interest. He did not draw plans to build on it or to sale it for a personal profit. What in the world would someone with land do with it if they did not do these things? Well, I can tell you that his friends had already given him a new name. They called him “Son of Encouragement.” Now that is a name to be given. This “Son of Encouragement” decided to sell his land and he brought the money to the church leaders so that they could help those who lacking. You may know him as Barnabas.
Yet, Barnabas was not the only one who did this in the early church. Several people who owned land and houses were selling their properties and giving it to the church so that the poor may be helped. The Christians shared in all that they had with one another.
Another couple also came to the Apostles with an offering from selling a personal possession. Everyone must have thought that this man and woman were wonderful for helping those in need. Yet, the Apostles realize that the couple had lied. Apparently the couple had promised to give all of the money, but didn’t yet pretended that they did. You know this couple as Ananias and Sapphira and there sin was that of hypocrisy. They wanted to gain the notoriety of someone like Barnabas, but they did not want to go as far in the charitable giving as he had. The Apostle Peter does not focus on their dishonesty as much as he does their hypocrisy. Both the man and woman die.
Today’s sermon concerns the subject of charitable giving and working with the warning to check our motives. It is not “if” you do a charitable deed, but “when” you do. Thus, a passage like this concerns us all. This first phrase that we will read begins with, “Take heed. . .” which can also be said as, “Be careful. . . .” We will be careful in our understanding of this passage, and we must be careful in our application of the text.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Do not sound a trumpet
There were no government programs to assist those in need in first century Judaism. Therefore the people who could give would help the poor and needy in their communities. This was a major part of their societal system. Yet, much like many aspects of religion today, that system had become corrupt. People gave not because of the goodness of their heart, but because of their appetite for praise from others. Sounding your trumpet could be taken two ways. It could be taken figuratively as making yourself sound good (tooting your own horn). It could be taken literally in that when someone threw their money in the offering boxes the clanging could be heard by all those around.
The word hypocrite comes from the word for Greek actors who wore various masks on stage to play various characters. The Pharisees/scribes were masking themselves with external works of righteousness. They were even masking their true motivations from themselves. You may expect a hypocrite at a theater, but not in church!
They have their reward
Rewards are affirmative recognitions and recompense for praiseworthy moral conduct. Webster’s says that reward is something given or done in return to acknowledge merit. Pharisees were constantly seeking/expecting a reward. This is the sin of the pride of life. Where are you seeking your reward? You will find it, but it may not be as lasting as you first thought. You can seek reward from your Father in heaven or the people around you. You get to make the choice. For those who do things just to be seen by others Jesus says, “Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” They have the reward of short-lived praise from others and nothing more. But those who are charitable because of their concern for others and the things of God will be rewarded by God. These rewards may not only be in the future. God may reward you with blessings now. You may receive a clear conscience, answered prayer, satisfaction from helping others, overcoming temptation, etc.
Do not let your left know
It is one thing to keep up with charitable giving for budgeting and accountability reasons. It is another thing to put up wall plaques that list the biggest contributors. Of course no one can hide from their left hand what their right is doing. This is a saying that forces one to think about what is being done. For the most part we should be doing things privately with no big parade. Others will surely know that we have done things, we do not have to keep it a secret from everyone like we are playing a game, but we should be quiet about our charitable giving. Let me also say, there is nothing worse than someone who makes a big deal about keeping the secret or those who quietly do something good, but later bring up what all they have done. Do what you do for the approval of God, not praise of men.
What is Jesus teaching? He assumes (and in His assumption, commands) that we will do charitable deeds. When we do, we are to check our motives. He has already taught us to be salt in a decaying and corrupted earth. He has told us to let our light shine into the desperate darkness of the world. He said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” That sounds very public while our passage today sounds very private. Jesus is teaching from two different angles. If you find it more tempting to be “hush-hush” about your faith, Jesus says to be firm in your commitment to the things of God. If you find it tempting to be boisterous and self-glorifying, Jesus says that you better check your motives.