Finding a Way to Give in Secret

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4)

In this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins to warn against hypocrisy and worldly-mindedness; sins that we should be ever aware of and most on our guard against. It was these sins that characterized the lives of the Pharisees. Giving is a high Christian duty and yet we must be aware of the subtle sin of pride which can quietly worm itself into our actions.

“He who knows himself best esteems himself least.”
-Henry G. Brown

I remember praying thirty or so years ago that I would never remember anything I did that was positive for someone else. I enjoyed doing things incognito. If something redeeming or edifying flowed from my hands or mouth, something sacrificial or encouraging, it was only because of the Lord Jesus within me. I knew that if I pondered prestige for the act or words of piety, thinking I should be honored or repaid in any way, that the recognition would negate the action in my mind as well as cause me to stumble. I disliked the thought of “keeping score” and wanted the freedom from myself and others to do or give as the Lord directed. And He answered my request. Unwittingly, I seemed to have been fleshing out the precept that our Lord describes here in our verses for today. We are to live our lives for an audience of One.

For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

Giving is a duty which is accompanied with great reward if not done hypocritically or filled with pride for the world to see and praise. One can never out-give God!

“He who stays not in his littleness loses his greatness.”
-Francis de Sales

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)

The promise of Scripture will ever hold true for those who give to please God rather than man.

It is certainly true that the Pharisees practiced the duty of giving, but their motive was not in obedience to God or of love for their fellow man. What the Pharisees really wanted was the praise of man. They wanted to be able to boast of their piety. Their actions were purely for show, choosing to give where all could see. Praise was their pay, their inheritance, in full.

“Self-conceit and self-delight, the adoring of our own shadow, are branches of pride.”
-Matthew Henry

Jesus tells us we are to conceal our giving as much as possible. We are not to dwell on how much we give or how often, rather we are to be diligent in keeping our actions concealed and private. We are to give because it is a good work, not to receive a good reputation.

Take It to Heart

We find in Scripture honor from Jesus for those who forget their good works.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’” “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’” “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:34-40)