Summary: This is the first part in a 3 part series on Jesus’ teaching about not doing acts of righteousness to be seen by men as the hypocrites do.
Don’t be a Show Off, Part 1
Lighthouse Assembly of God
Pastor Greg Tabor
Read Matthew 6:1-4
Define ‘acts of righteousness’?
Specifically there are three examples here: alms giving, prayer and fasting. These would be three things the Pharisees would have been involved in. I’d say that ‘acts of righteousness’ could also extend to any number of things involved in the worship of God.
How does that differ from doing good deeds before men, as we are encouraged to do elsewhere?
First of all, each example, alms giving, prayer and fasting mention not doing it like the hypocrites. The word for hypocrite is the same word used for actor and comes from another word that can mean ‘to pretend.’ So Jesus is essentially saying that when you do one of these acts of righteousness, don’t do it like those who pretend to be pious but aren’t, or when it comes to doing righteous acts don’t be an like an actor who only plays a part but in reality is someone different.
Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus expressed the need to let our light shine before men so they would glorify our Father in heaven. The difference in the two passages is the motive behind the deeds. When we are seen it should be out of a desire for God to get the glory, which is contrasted with the ‘actors’ mentioned in chapter 6 who are desiring glory for themselves.
The Hypocrite’s way of giving alms
Now, sources I consulted did not believe actual trumpets were blown here, but rather that this was just a way of saying that they made sure they were seen. This was to make a major show of things so that the gift given was clearly seen by all present. They were being ‘show offs.’
The hypocrites were this way in the market place and in the synagogues. Matthew, Mark and Luke all record Jesus describing the hypocritical ways of the Pharisees. Just listen to these:
“Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’” Matthew 23:5-7 NIV
“As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.”” Mark 12:38-40 NIV; see also Luke 11:43 and 20:46-47
Speaking to the Pharisees Jesus said, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’” Matthew 15:7-9 NIV; see also Mark 7:6-7
The result of the Hypocrite’s way
In verse 1 it tells us that if we do our acts of righteousness for the purpose of being seen by men, then we will have no reward from God. And in verse 2, Jesus explains that men who give their alms for their purpose of being seen by men will receive being seen by men as the only reward they will get. They might get the applause of men, but they’ll never get the approval of God.
Christ’s way of giving alms
Christ explains to us the manner in which we are to give alms to the needy. He uses the phrase that we should not let our left hand know what our right hand is doing. This is a figure of speech that explains just the opposite of announcing our giving with trumpets. The first part of verse 4 tells us the giving should be in secret. We need to give it in such a way that our desire is not for the praise of men, but for the glory of God. Someone satisfied with giving in secret is someone with the right motive in their giving.
The result of Christ’s way
When we give our alms, or give any type of monetary gift, in such a way as to be doing it from a motive of true love and service, rather than for men to praise us, then we will receive a great reward from God. God will bless us in this life and the life to come. Verse 1 specifically mentions being rewarded in heaven. Undoubtedly that is ultimately how we will be rewarded for what we do in this life.
Jesus was showing here the contrast between those whose hearts were about glorifying themselves and those whose hearts were truly desiring to glorify God. It is the difference between the hypocrite, the actor, the pretender and the true follower.