In Matthew 6:1-21, Jesus teaches about three foundational spiritual disciplines, which he refers to as acts of piety--giving, prayer and fasting. His teaching on each is minimal, focusing on how not to do them (for public appearance and praise and a short-lived reward). Instead, we are to practice them in secret where only God sees and knows and gives a lasting reward. His instruction begins with a warning: Beware! Because Jesus assumes his followers practice all three, I’ve chosen to spend a day on each one.
Prepare to Listen. Be still and silent then pray: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love.
Prayerfully Read Matthew 6:1-4
1‘Beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2‘So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Jesus begins his teaching about spiritual practices with alms giving, meaning charitable giving to the poor and needy. The opening warning about motive (not to be seen) is necessary since many of us would like people to know about our giving. We may not walk down the street flashing our checks or bank notes, or drawing attention to ourselves with noisy trumpets. Today we’re more discrete—names and the amount given published on plaques or in mail or a public oral announcement. Jesus warns against this kind of publicity, urging us instead to give in secret. He says, ‘do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.’ Obviously, this isn’t meant to be taken literally! Of course, you will know what you give and so will others (such as the church treasurer). The issue of secrecy has to do with our motivation for giving. Why do we give? Is it for the immediate reward of impressing others or is it for God and God alone and thus we don't care if no human knows? Jesus’ only reason for demanding secret giving, that is, with the God-alone-motivation is simply this: ‘and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.’ Therefore, beware how you give.
Alms giving, that is giving to the poor and needy is a discipline Jesus expects of us. Ask God for guidance about how much and to whom you can give during Lent and for grace to give with the right motivation and thus 'in secret.'
Respond to Jesus
Lord Jesus so many people in the world need help. I can only give to a very few, a drop in the ocean. May my giving make a difference to someone today for your glory. Amen.
Go live obediently in the world that desperately needs our charitable giving.
Because I believe that Scripture is food for our soul (our entire being) I seek to read it and encourage others to read it in ways that nourish and transform our beings. I invite you to read the Bible with me during Lent and into Easter. I am a Bible teacher, spiritual companion and retreat director. I know the Bile and how to read it for spiritual formation.