Matthew 6:1-4 (NIV): “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.”
There are two extremes in motives of those who give to others in need: because God has called them to give and it is the right thing to do, or because the giver wants to receive something out of his act of charity. Of course there are shades and gradations between these two into which most people fall, but these are the two endpoints.
If we give because we want to receive accolades from others, that is easily done. We can either give conspicuously to the needy, the equivalent of blowing trumpets before we give so that people will see what we are doing; or we can merely tell others about a gift we have made. In either of those cases, people will take note of our gift and our generous spirit, and will think well of us, maybe even praise us to our face, or to others: “What a nice guy!” But that will be the only reward that we will receive for our generosity. We will receive no praise from God, no credit for good acts accomplished. The praise from other people will serve as payment in full.
If, on the other hand, we give our gifts to those in need discreetly, out of the public eye, or even in secret so that even the receiver never knows that it was us who blessed them; if we never breathe a word of it to another living soul, but give purely because it is the right thing to do, and because the love of God compels us to share our blessing with one in need, we will receive no public accolades. Other people will never praise us, think more highly of us, or use us as an inspirational example for others to follow. But GOD will know that it is us who has given, and He will return the blessing of our gifts back into our own lives many times over.
We must understand that it is not a sin to give gifts in a public way. It is purely a matter of motivation – WHY we are giving, and the kind of blessing that we want in return for our generosity. But if we want the kind of blessing that only God can give, blessings not of fame or of human praise, but blessings of richness of spirit, fullness of life, and of God’s participation in meeting our own needs, then we need to give in secret. Then God, who sees what is done in secret, will reward us.
Father, of course I would rather have Your blessing than 1000 people thinking I’m a great guy. Help me to always give in ways that shun the limelight and that merely seeks Your approval. Amen.