Summary: Jesus teaching begins to look at hypocrisy.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 2“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3“But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
In Matthew 6, Jesus makes a transition of sorts and begins to focus on outward formal righteousness that flows out of appropriate inner attitudes and righteousness.
In this section we learn about hypocrisy. A hypocrite is a person who demonstrates outward righteousness but his acts of righteousness are not matched by inward righteousness. Its all just a show. Its deception and its particularly evil because it takes something good and uses it for evil purposes. Its all done in order to please men and be noticed by them and to make them think a certain way that is not really true.
The “hypocrite” is a theatrical term refereed to a Greek actor who wore a mask that portrayed in an exaggerated way the role that was being dramatized. So, the word “hypocrite” has come to be used for anyone who pretends to be something he is not.
Jesus gives three illustrations of religious activities that can become HYPOCRISY. GIVING, PRAYING, FASTING. These are not the only religious activities that flow out of inner righteousness. They were three areas that were used by the hypocritical church men of Jesus day in order to appear righteous before other people.
Any act of righteousness, regardless of how good it may be, that is done to draw attention to the one doing it, is a sham. It is hypocrisy. The devotion is to self and not to God.
We do three bad things.
We sin against God by robbing Him of glory and make a mockery of His true intent for His people to glorify him.
We sin against others by giving them a false understanding of true righteousness.
We lose any real reward. The approval of God.
GIVING alms can refer to any charitable act and eventually came to be used primarily to refer to giving money.
Notice: Jesus is not talking about merely having good intentions, but is he talking about compassion that actually finds expression in action taken. Also, notice that Jesus is talking in definitive terms. He doesn’t say, if you give alms, but he says “When you give alms.”
Acts of kindness and benevolence, and mercy are God’s expectation.
Now in case a countryman of yours becomes poor and his means with regard to you falter, then you are to sustain him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. 36‘Do not take usurious interest from him, but revere your God, that your countryman may live with you. 37‘You shall not give him your silver at interest, nor your food for gain. 38‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.
When you set him free, you shall not send him away empty-handed. 14“You shall furnish him liberally from your flock and from your threshing floor and from your wine vat; you shall give to him as the LORD your God has blessed you.
God has always directed his people to be generous and kind to the poor.
Jesus’ denunciation is not directed at only the Pharisees and scribes but toward all well to do Israelites who might make a spectacle when they would give money to help the poor and do charitable things.
They wanted people to know when they gave. In fact, the more they gave or did, the more noise they would make about it.
Chuck Swindol told about an offering box he heard about in a church. It’s the opposite of the kind of "pride-stroking" Jesus warned against. This hi-tech collection box has a laser that reads the contribution immediately. When you drop in a $5 bill or more nothing happens. Any coins that total fifty cents or more sounds a little bell. A quarter will get you a gong; and a dime sets off a siren. If you walk past without giving, a camera pops-up and takes your picture, faxes it to the treasurer and puts a flag on your membership letter.
Jesus denounced the practice because it draws attention to the giver. He has already said that we should do our good deeds in such a way as give glory to God.