“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do…to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” —Matthew 6:2
When it comes to giving, the Sermon on the Mount clashes head on with North American values around image and materialism. So much of western culture is concerned with how we look and what we own. Giving, when it is done at all, is often motivated more by tax breaks and looking charitable than by genuine generosity.
A concern with reputation characterizes the hypocrites. Their giving is a symptom of a dangerous ego that manipulates actions to feed the giver’s pride. They are motivated not by a concern for the poor but to be honoured by others. Their reward is people saying, “What a generous man or woman they are,” even though most people see through this false generosity.
To avoid egocentric giving, Jesus says, “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 6:3-4). Jesus promises reward, but believers are not to give with their left hand for the purpose of getting back with their right. Our left hand’s giving is independent of any blessing that may come to our right hand. It is true that Scripture says “whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6), but we should not interpret this to mean that if we give much, God will give us even more for ourselves. God does not reward giving for the sake of getting back; He rewards giving that is cheerful and generous.
This reward is twofold. Firstly, as we spend time with God in the secret place of our heart, determining in wisdom what to give, we are brought into deeper intimacy with Him. This leads to the second reward: that in giving wisely and cheerfully what we have determined, we are assured of God’s provision. God is able to bless us abundantly, and Scripture’s promise is that when we give, He “will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
The only valid motive for giving is to please God and serve His interests. Genuine generosity is unconcerned with ourselves but is a response of our heart, motivated by love for God and the desire to serve Him and His people. There is a reward to giving, but this is not to be our priority. We are blessed to be a blessing. Rather than letting image or the opinions of others rule why we give, may we be motivated to give by a heart that loves God so that we and those around us will reap the benefits.
PRAYER: Gracious God, thank You for the world-baffling generosity You place within me, for the ways You have blessed me and for giving me opportunities to give out of that blessing.