Summary: Today we start chapter six. Throughout chapter five we saw the phrase, "you have heard it was said". Jesus no longer starts out that way. Jesus isn't challenging contradictory teachings but contradictory practices. Today's lesson is on why we do good deeds.
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT (part 14)
Today we start chapter six. We'll notice that Jesus doesn't introduce his topics as he has up to this point. Throughout chapter five we saw the now familiar phrase, "you have heard it was said". But Jesus doesn't start out that way through the rest of the sermon on the mount. As chapter six begins, Jesus doesn't challenge contradictory teachings but he does carry on the theme of challenging contradictory practices. Today Jesus challenges us to examine why we do good deeds.
1) Giving to be noticed.
Matt. 6:1-2, “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."
Jesus cautions us to not do our 'acts of righteousness' for the purpose of getting noticed for them. Notice Jesus adds the clarifier, 'to be seen by them'. Jesus isn't saying don't ever do your acts of righteousness in front of others. He isn't saying all your good deeds must be done one on one.
While that may be what's best in certain circumstances, sometimes it's appropriate to do a good deed in front of others; not for personal accolades but to inspire them to follow suit. You see organizations talk about all the good they're doing so other people will be inspired to join the cause. Some people or companies are all about being recognized for their donations and acts of service but not all of them.
And just because someone is being recognized for their service doesn't make it wrong or that the person is doing it with wrong motives. We have to be careful, as Jesus said, but not all public giving is insincere. But it's good to examine ourselves to determine if there's a desire to be recognized when we do something nice for someone.
There have been surveys where people were asked, 'if you could break the law with no chance of getting caught, would you'. Many people said that they would. But think about it the other way around? As people would be willing to do the wrong thing if they were sure no one would find out, I wonder how many people would not do the right thing if they were sure no one would find out.
It's Christmas time and some people do this thing called Secret Santa. You have a group of people who draw names and buy a gift for that person in secret. But does it stay a secret? No, at the end you find out who your secret Santa is. How many would still participate if it stayed completely anonymous? Do we do good deeds with the desire to make them known?
In vs. two, notice that Jesus starts out by saying when you give; not if you give. Jesus speaks from the presumption that one is going to give. For the Christian, giving or helping the needy isn't an option; it's a requirement. When, how much and how often are to be determined but it's expected that a follower of Jesus will be a giving person. There's a quote that goes, "It is possible to give without loving, but it is impossible to love without giving". Part of following the two greatest commandments is seen in the act of giving.
If you use an older translation you might see the word, alms. Giving alms is giving money or other assistance to people in need as charity. So this wasn't just about giving money, but also donations or even help. And we see that whatever it is we are giving, it should not be broadcast.
"Announce it with trumpets". Jesus wasn't being figurative here; he was being literal. It's understood that the Pharisees were known to actually do this. Jesus calls them hypocrites. He also uses this term in the next two sections when he talks about praying and fasting.
In giving, praying and fasting, Jesus highlights that the Pharisees were being hypocritical; doing these things for show and recognition rather than sincerity. They were doing good deeds but not because they really cared about the person they were helping or the good that would be done through their offering, but for selfish reasons; it was a means to their self-glorifying end.
Blowing a trumpet would get everyone's attention. When people had gathered around (including the needy, since they knew the trumpet sound meant they would receive something) the good deed was performed so all would see and be impressed. There's also an ancient practice in the East where beggars would have a horn and when someone would give a donation they would sound the horn. Perhaps the bigger the donation the louder or longer the blow of the horn would be.