ESV - 4 So that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
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The question each of us should ask ourselves is: What is the motivation behind our act? Are we performing a task or giving out of a heart of love or is it just to receive "strokes"? Example is sometimes the best explanation. I tell this in all humility. A few years ago at a church I was attending the pastor who was aware that I am a woodworker expressed a need for a prayer box, a type of receptacle that people could drop their written prayer requests in. I spent several evenings after hours building, staining and finishing the box and stand. I made arrangements with the pastor to meet at the church on a day no services or functions were being held. When I delivered the box he seemed overwhelmed and pleased, offering to pay me. I said no, I did it for the Lord's work and the only stipulation I had was that he not publicly announce who made/donated it. He responded by stating, I felt you would say that. The following Sunday the associate pastor honored my request when he announced the location and purpose of the box, only stating that a member had made and donated it. Before starting construction I asked the Lord to guide my hands, that it would be fashioned and finished in a way pleasing unto Him. I cannot tell you of the joy and happiness I experienced as I worked at making that box! Although insignificant, what a privilege and blessing to make something which became a permanent part of that church's ministry. I was blessed while making it, blessed by making it and have been richly blessed since making it. I could have installed a little brass plaque "HAND MADE and DONATED BY......." to which I'm certain no one would have objected. I could have allowed the pastor to give me public recognition. No doubt I would have received several pats on the back from members. I had rather be "stroked" by The Lord. Matthew 10:42 "And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward."
Good question I submit the doing of labor or giving of money or valued time without any fanfare which seems in vogue and quite fashionable today. Seeing deeds could well be the anonymous food basket that magically appears on a door step or the countless unglamorous jobs that need to be done. Roll an older person trash can to the street, look around there is always good to be done, if one takes the time to look and truly see. The great reward is that it takes your mind off your own selfish thoughts, wants, problems redirecting your focus on the needs of others! When I am in a tribulation or an attack of sorts I do anonymous good deeds and you know what, it make me feel so much better enduring my small problems. It's like spiritually punching the evil one in his funny face, laughter is a great medicine, try it sometime. In the Lord's freedom to bring hope and laughter............warrior on
In Matthew 6:4, we see that Christ's followers are to avoid making a show of giving their treasure to the Father's cause. Kind of like voters can be seen in the voting booth, without broadcasting who they are voting for--or bragging that they are great citizens who exercise their vote for every election. The verse doesn't mean sneaking into the church bursar's office in the dark of night wearing a hoodie, or some such bit of contrivance. In church, one would be seen placing the envelope in the plate--without proudly announcing the amount! No room for vainglory. Now, in Matthew 5:16 (these two verses are anything but a contradiction), it is the opposite of Paul's warning to the Thessalonians, "...Abstain from all appearance of evil." (I Thessalonians 5:22). What we are to do is conduct ourselves in all things in an upright, honest and loving manner. Be seen, as the twelve-year-old Jesus was seen in the Temple, being about His Father's business. (Luke 2:39-52) When you are in public, like it or not, modern life places our existence in the category of being an open book. We can be seen as evil--if we choose that route. Or, if we have given our hearts to God, fhe children's praise song comes to mind, "Let my Little Light Shine." What the world should see is a happy person, full of love and good humor. Many Christians walk around with long faces, exuding unhappiness. They are like the example given by Jesus during his Sermon on the Mount: "Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full." (Matthew 6:16) NASB
This is not the 'either/ or', but the classic 'both/ and'. Many things Jesus himself did were public, and many were private between Him and the Father. There are no lists of what should be private or public. A lot of this has to do with our motives, and what the "work" is. Sometimes our work involves people and will be seen, after all, we do not live in a vacuum. These types of deeds can be a good example for others to follow, or to just be glad that a good work is being accomplished and thus "glorify God". Some work such as that which is done with other people obviously cannot be done totally in secret. This is what Jesus referred to in Matt. 5:16. Other times we shouldn't draw attention to what we are doing to get accolades or praise. This is the case in giving, which is really a personal matter of worship between us and God as Jesus points out in Matt. 6:4.
Any reading of Matthew 6:4 should be understood in the context of verse 2 which preceded it. Jesus is emphasizing here the "purpose" in the gift. In verse 2 He brought out that those giving amidst much fanfare and recognition were doing so to be praised and honored by men. Then there are those spoken of in verse 4 who give for the purpose of being recognized and honored by God for their gift. Which would you prefer? In continuity and context relating to Matthew 5:16, Jesus speaks of being a shining light and allowing men to see our good works and thereby praise God. It is easy to bring praise and honor to God without bringing too much attention to ourselves. Many have been known to take bags of groceries to the homes of the less fortunate or underprivileged at Christmas. Food on the table can mean so much more than toys under a tree. Now, if they invited a news crew to go along and film the event, they are doing it for the wrong reasons. They are seeking instant gratification and recognition by men. If, however, they give the groceries without recognition and without telling anyone, the Heavenly Father will know. The family who unfortunately found themselves in need of that kind gift may not want their poverty broadcast on the evening news. Rather, they would likely prefer some dignity left in tact allowing them to survive a rather lean winter season without all loss of personal pride. Sometimes people lose jobs, have family illnesses, or fall on hard times for a variety of reasons. Our response to their need is telling of our heart's attention to God's voice. I once visited a church just before it was starting a building campaign to expand. I noted in the foyer of the church a huge bronze plaque which listed the names of all the church members who had given more than $1500.00 to their last building campaign. I could not help but wonder how many of those listed had given to the Lord with no desire for recognition, and were actually embarrassed to see their names written there? Then I wondered how many of those listed would possibly have given much less if anything, but gave so that they could see their names forever etched in bronze on the walls of the church? It is unfortunate, but many a lost soul thinks they are placing their names on an eternal plaque with God by thus giving. It is equally unfortunate that many a saved soul thinks they are scoring brownie points with God for having thus given, and the plaque is their proof. If you give to the Lord, give to the Lord, not to man for recognition by man. And, never give more than you're comfortable walking away from and leaving just where you gave it......to the Lord. If you do, you're giving for the wrong reasons. Give joyfully....without regrets and without strings attached.
I think you can do both. You can give in secret and let it be known. I will give you an example of how I feel this can be done. Over the last couple of years I have received a bonus from work. My wife and I prayed that God would reveal to us someone who could benefit from the bonus. We often pray about giving above our tithe and to whom, and to be quite honest we often have the same thoughts or revelation from God. Anyway my wife mentioned one night about a single parent in our church whose washing machine had packed up. I thought about this and asked her what her thoughts were. We agreed that it was right to bless her with a new washing machine. So we spoke to her and said we felt God had asked us to buy her a new washing machine, which one would suit her needs. We did not do it to look good but just to genuinely to meet a need, but we needed know what would suit. We have never told anyone what we have done. So what we have done is in secret, between God, the single mother my wife and I, BUT the good deed done is not us giving but God giving me and my wife money to bless a sister in need. That is where the focus should be. I could give you more examples of this and also giving without the recipient knowing. Praise God though cause each time we have done so we have received back. Not just financially but spiritually.
You cannot have it both ways. If you give in secret, it remains secret i.e not known by anybody else. If you want your giving to become known then you are seeking the rewards, recognition of your good work.
It does not make sense to do something in secret and then want it seen. It is written 'do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing' Things done for God unto one of your brethren, should be for the Glory of God. And if we seek our recognition (reward) here on earth, then we have lost the Heavenly crown we might have gained for that good deed when we get there. I would rather be rewarded in Heaven than have the accolades of other people here on earth. Do good things not to be seen, but rather to please God.
This is a good question if we consider giving alms (Matt 6:1-4) to be a good work of the kind involved in Matt. 5:16. However, in Acts 9:36 the two are clearly discriminated. Little is said about alms giving in the New Testament, perhaps because the early Christians had already sold everything they had to give to the poor. Is giving alms, which requires no physical effort or exertion to speak of, some type of good work, or is it simply practicing charity or benevolence on behalf of the poor? Alms-giving does appear to be more in the nature of a sacrificial donation coming from a surplus of wealth, rather than a donation of time and energy to accomplish a good work or deed. Good works can confirm our faith (James 2:26) and so would be worth more than giving alms from what we already possess. A good work is an accomplishment gained by significant exertion for those who cannot repay in kind. Through good works we can overcome evil with good.For good to dominate, real good works should not be hidden, but there to see by everyone to the glory of God. But we have to understand that the poor widow (Mark 12:42) who gave everything she had, even though it was only two mites, had justified herself even more than those performing many good works.
To be simple, Biblical Christianity is all about the heart. If we as a person have a choice rather what we are about to do becomes public or private and we choose to make it public we need to do a deep self-analysis on why (heart motive). God desires at all times for us to have as pure of a heart as we possibly can. I think about Matt. 25:35-46 Jesus speaks about doing things unto the least of these. We encounter people in our lives where we can't possibly imagine how we may benefit from doing something (may be a desperate need for them) and it may also require that we suffer in some way for some time by choosing to take action. When we commit to that type of action to that type of individual and do so discreetly that displays pure Godly motive more than anything else.
This is very tricky, like walking on a thin rope. But there may be a way to reconcile the two. When one is giving in public, especially in the Church, then let that giving be a secret. But when we are giving to individuals, we can still hide behind something, e.g., the Church or any organization. That is, if a need arises in our neighborhood, let the beneficiaries know that it is not we that are helping them but it is the Church or the Christian organization that has delegated us to do that. Here when we are doing this way, even when our giving or helping is not delegated in writing, we are still acknowledging that we and whatever we have all belong to the God of the Church. We can never dissociate ourselves from the Church. If anyone, claiming to be a Christian, is not joined to any Church, i.e., a believers' group, then I will have every reason to question that anyone's Christianity. St. Paul in his letters mentions, as far as I know, only the names of the Churches that gave monitory helps. But the mentioning of names, e.g., in Romans 16, is Paul's personal 'thank you' to them. We have classic examples of two givings in the Acts of the Apostles. In 4:32-37 we have one example of giving without seeking recognition. The mention of Barnabas' name, I suppose, is an example of giving in direct contrast to the other giving with fatal consequences in 5:1-11. But the litmus test of our giving is in this: Who is getting the credit for our giving or doing, even if it is given in secret or in public? But my counsel here is, even if you fail not to get credit for your giving, do not stop giving. Even if it is not a first grade giving, keep on giving. Without qualification the Scriptures says,"It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35). Let us remember Paul's words in Phill. 1:18 "... whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice,...". So no matter what grade your giving gets, I rejoice in your giving.
Matthew 5:!3-16 is talking about spreading the gospel of the new kingdom which was about to start. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand! This was the church which God would need men to teach and preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ! Without these men there would not be anyone to show the true light of Jesus. Matt: 6:1-4 is talking about the money we give, the people we help who are in need, the contributions we make to the church should be between God and the giver! God must get the glory!
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