Matthew 6:1-5
Mat 6:1 (KJB)
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.
Jesus now turns to the subject of giving alms. Alms is something which is given without expectation of repayment of some kind. In the last chapter Jesus spoke about inviting the lame and the poor because they could not recompense a person for the kindness shown. Here Jesus widens the experience of giving that true giving is done without a fanfare. The true spirit of giving is done without anybody, except the giver, knowing that a person is giving. The Pharisees and other leaders of Israel would make sure that everybody knew when they were giving alms. Have you ever visited a church where there is a nameplate on every pew or every item in the sanctuary? I grew up in a church where they listed the actual donation amounts given by individuals and when the yearly congregational meeting came around, the church bosses would castigate anyone who spoke and didn’t give as much as them. The motive of giving is not to be seen of men but is to be obedient to God and to give generously as He gives to His children. When one gives according to the principles of Scripture, then God rewards the giver in some fashion and not always with the same things which were given. If one gives for the purpose of being seen of men so they can increase their status, then whatever reward our Heavenly Father would have given is withheld.
Mat 6:2 (KJB)
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.
Alms are a gift of love given to those who are living in hard times. I have hit hard times in the past and others have helped me when the need was the greatest. I also knew a brother some years ago who knew that I was struggling financially at a time in my life who told me that he was making so much money at the same time. He did not offer me one penny to help. So there are going to be both kinds out there and we must also realize that if the Lord shows us someone who has an immediate need that is close to us, we should do what we could do to meet that need. Sometimes we Christians think that unless our money is going 10,000 miles away to some remote part of the earth, that it is not missions. If we know of a brother or sister who is struggling right in our own congregation and no help is given, then that church has failed in its understanding of missions. At one time in all our lives, we become mission fields and if our church would rather send it overseas than give a portion to help someone struggling, then they need to study their Bibles again about alms and missions. Jesus spoke about alms for a reason because they were a part of the Christian walk.
Now back to our verse. Jesus is now giving a scathing denunciation of the way the Scribes and Pharisees had given. In the temple the collection box was shaped like a trumpet, narrower at the top and wider at the bottom to prevent theft. Jesus is denouncing the fact that when the Scribes and Pharisees gave, they would make sure their giving was known. It was not that they were blowing an actual trumpet, but the principle is that they drew attention to their giving by whatever means they could. Jesus also called them “hypocrites” because He knew that outwardly they would look so religious and pious, but inwardly they were evil, unsaved men who only cared about money and status. They gave only to be seen of men so everyone would consider them to be so holy. Their desire for the praise of men yielded their reward and that was the praise of men. Once the praise was over, the reward was over.
Mat 6:3 (KJB)
But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
The principle that Jesus is bringing to light is to do your alms in such a way that your left hand does not know what your right hand is doing, that is, the alms are to be done in secret. This is in contrast to the Pharisees who wanted and made sure everyone knew that they were giving. As Christians, it is not for others to know what we give and to who. If you are supporting a ministry and you think some folks you know would be interested in supporting them, then that is fine because you are helping spread the word but you do not tell them how much you give. You may tell them you support that ministry and why, but do not let it degenerate into a self-aggrandizing conversation. Over the years I have suggested ministries to others and have had ministries recommended to me. It is how we come to know what is good and what is not.
Mat 6:4 (KJB)
That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
Openly - Visible, clear, or plain
When we do our alms in secret, it shows that we have no desire to be praised for what we have done. We engage our giving with the right spirit. Giving is not done as a personal achievement but out of love for the Lord. If giving is done in the right spirit, then God will reward the giver. Some believe that there is going to be a rewards ceremony in Heaven at the Bema Seat of Christ when all believers will receive rewards. That is not going to happen because believers have already been judged at Calvary and found innocent because of Christ. This does not mean that there may be some type of mention but that would not be right for all the believers who lived in very poor countries and could not give. The true giver will receive those rewards in this life for the purpose of allowing their ministries to enlarge. (1 Chr 4:10 KJV) And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested. The prayer of Jabez was akin to the giver. God had granted his request and enlarged his ministry. God may choose to bless financially for financial giving, or He may choose a different type of blessing/reward for the purpose of increased ministry. I have seen this principle at work in my own life. I spend and have spent many hours at a computer doing Bible Studies. I do not charge for these studies but give them away happily to the body of Christ so anyone may use them without permission if they find them to biblically accurate. How has God rewarded me? Since the beginning of 2012, the website has been viewed in over 170 countries every month. Now that is God enlarging my coast! Meanwhile how many ministries charge for materials and then beg and grovel when their yearly budget is not met. If they would give the studies away and let the Lord send in the operating capital, they would be in the black every year.
There is a reverse side to this. When someone has the ability to support missions or help ministries and they do not, then we will see the reward being given to them in the opposite manner. This would be through financial hardship, minimal understanding of scripture, or whatever but the reward shows the true nature of the person. Remember the Pharisees who had their reward because they were giving hypocritically? Same principle, if we have the money and refuse to give, then our reward will be like theirs which is the reward of the hypocrite. God knows what we can and cannot do and He does not expect us to go beyond what we can do because it is He who has given us that amount of finances.
Mat 6:5 (KJB)
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
Now Jesus switches to another dynamic of the Christian faith and that is prayer. Normally the Jews held prayer time twice a day and that would be morning and afternoon (considered evening prayers). What the Scribes and Pharisees would do, would be that wherever they were, in the marketplace or on a street, they would begin to recite their prayers in the sight and hearing of those around them. Those who would hear and see them would consider them to be very holy and dedicated since they would stop and pray right where they were. It was another way to be seen of men. Once again as they were being revered by those around them, they have earned the only reward they are going to get. Now what is not in view here is legitimate public prayer such as in a church setting. What is being condemned is the showcase mentality of the Pharisees who loved to pray while others were watching. Prayer is a very sacred time between a true believer and God and must not be turned into a theatrical performance.