Matthew 6:1-2 – Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
While this passage is typically employed in the service of condemning negative acts of hypocrisy, there is an interesting aspect that highlights the positive aspect of the believers life: practicing private righteousness.
Yeshua here equates giving to those in need as an act of righteousness. When believers are compassionate to others, they are exhibiting their righteousness. To exhibit righteousness is not wrong, in fact, we are supposed to be the “lights of the world” and the “salt of the earth.” However, if we are doing acts of righteousness only for the sake of being seen by others to show them how superior we are for being so righteous, then this steps over into the realm of hypocrisy. This is the main point that Yeshua is attempting to convey.
But I believe the term “practicing or doing righteousness” still carries a lot of beneficial cargo for the believer today. Just because it’s wrong to be an exhibitionist with our righteous acts does not mean we should not still do them. This is why Yeshua says if there is a chance they can be seen by others as hypocritical, to do them outside the purview of others; to do them in secret.
Matthew 6:3-4 – 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. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
We should attempt to help others and be compassionate in ways that don’t draw attention to ourselves, but that only give glory to God. The reassurance that Yeshua provides is that God still sees those genuine acts of charity, even if no one else does, and he honors the generous heart.
Proverbs 19:17 – Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.
While there have been many fine organizations and efforts over the years to assist the less fortunate, our ultimate goal should not be to join some charity organization as a means of adding to our “resume of righteousness.” We should find ways to simply give with a willing heart whenever a need arises, and when we are able to do so. This is the authentic way that people receive the real help they need. It is personal because it comes from the heart; it is sacrificial because it takes personal time, effort, and resources; and it is genuine because it is done solely for the benefit of another.
This is the type of righteous compassion that Yeshua encourages and which God blesses. Whenever we exhibit love to others simply for the sake of loving them, we honor God and bring glory to his name.
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