“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 honoured 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.”
Shortly after the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost, Peter and John went up to the Temple to worship. At the Gate called Beautiful, they encountered a man who was begging for money, dependent on the almsgiving of those who entered. Apparently, this was his regular practice, going there every day. He’d been crippled since birth. Had he been there begging on occasions when Jesus himself had gone up to the Temple? We don’t know, but certainly there had been many like him – “the needy” – hoping for a hand-out.
That day the man received something much better from Peter and John (full healing, so that he could run and leap and praise God!). But since it’s true that “the poor you will always have with you” (Matthew 26:11), Jesus gives us instruction regarding our regular, ongoing interaction with them.
Three things stand out.
The first thing, so obvious, is that Jesus expects that we will regularly give, specifically to the poor. He doesn’t say, “if you give to the needy,” but rather, “when you give.” Yes, there are many missions and ministries and organizations to which we might give financial support, and should. But it’s striking that Jesus specifically has the poor in his sights. In the midst of all the giving we might do, we shouldn’t miss this.
The second thing, so clear, is that we’re to give quietly. We’re not to publishing it abroad. In fact, we’re to keep it so secret that not even our left hand is aware of our right hand’s activity. It’s not about seeking our own glory, but rather simply caring for the needy. And lest we find ourselves looking all around, hoping others will see what we’ve done, Jesus prefaces this whole section with a general statement about “acts of righteousness” (including giving, fasting, praying), telling us to focus our eyes solely on the Father in heaven. There is to be no trumpet blast. No “Hey, look at me!” No big announcement. Just simply caring and serving and looking to the Father.
Interestingly, Jesus had earlier said that our light is to shine before men “so that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). It’s not a contradiction. The issue is whether we are seeking glory for God, or simply for ourselves. Don’t do the latter, Jesus says.
The third thing I notice is that the Father “rewards” us when such giving is done with eyes on him alone. “Well done, good and faithful servant,” is the response that will resonate as reward over those who serve in this way (Matthew 25:21, 23). We seek to please the Father’s heart, not earning his favour (because that’s already been given us in Jesus), but simply running in the path of his commands (Psalm 119:32), that we might “please him in every way”(Colossians 1:10), for the sheer joy of his delight. How good.
So, give to the poor. Regularly. With eyes on the Lord. All to his glory.
Father in heaven, give me eyes to see the needy ones for whom you want me to care. Help me to give joyfully, doing it in your line of sights alone.
Reflect: Are you currently using your resources to care for the poor? Interact with the Lord about your response.