Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Sermon on the Mount - Charity


Hello everyone, today I am going to get back into our study on the Sermon on the Mount.  Today we will be entering the sixth chapter of Matthew.
Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.  Matthew 6:1-4 NKJV
Many of us perform works of charity.  This can be anywhere from giving a dollar to a man on the street to sponsoring a child in some far off land. It is any time we do something for someone else with no expectation of anything in return.  It is a gift and not something given in exchange for something else.  Understanding what charity actually is makes the message from Jesus make perfect sense.  I say that because doing something in exchange for something else (even praise from others) is no longer charity, but working for some kind of payment.  That kind of attitude betrays the very meaning of what charity is. 

First Jesus tells us "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them."  Please do not take this to some kind of extreme.  Of course people will see us perform works of charity.  I suppose that it is possible to give nothing but anonymous donations, but that is a very impracticable way to go through life. Look at the qualifier that Jesus adds: "to be seen by them."  What Jesus is telling us is not to purposely give to charity in such a way as to be seen.  Do not be showy about it.  Do not brag about it.  Do not make a big event out of it.  We should just quietly perform our charity with the attitude that it does not matter if others see it or not.

Jesus then tells is the consequence.  He says "Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven."  You lose any reward from God for rewards obtained from man.  If man's praise is so important to you, Jesus says, then fine but that is all you will get.  You will get nothing from God, however.  That is because, as I explained, charity is not supposed to be done for anything in return.  If you perform charity with that heart, then you are not performing charity at all.  Remember, God does not look to the surface but looks to the heart and rewards or punishes based on what is in the heart.  That is how David, who sinned, was still called a man after God's own heart whereas a (self) righteous Pharisee was called a hypocrite.  God does not care if it looks like charity, He cares whether or not it really is charity.

Jesus then goes on to give an example to illustrate his point. He says "Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward."  The Pharisees loved to be seen for the "holy" men that they were.  Can you imagine someone dressed in their religions robes with a parade behind him blowing trumpets so that everyone can see just how "generous" he is in what he just gave to a poor person?  It ridiculous to think of even such a thing, but that is what happened.  We do have many modern day equivalents of men who love love to brag on what missions trips they went on or how many poor people they ministered to.  They may even produce videos to show just how selfless and holy they are.  There are pictures of them handing over sized checks to whomever they are donating to and there are buildings named after them.  Just like the Pharisees, they relish the praise of man and they receive praise from their many followers.  But also just as the Pharisees, they have their reward.  That praise from man is all they will ever get.  God, however, sees them for the hypocrites that they are.

And finally, Jesus sums up his teaching.  He says "But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly."  He emphasizes the importance of not seeking the praise of man when it comes to our charitable deeds.  Again, please do not take this to the extreme.  Yes, it is fine to claim your charitable deeds on your taxes.  That is not gaining any kind of praise.  It is also fine to share with others what you do as long as it is done to not gain their praise.  For example, if someone asks me if I give to any charity I am not going to say :"Sorry, that's a secret."  But I am also not going to take that as an opportunity to brag.  It is also fine to share how God has blessed you for what you have done.  Jesus says that our blessing is open, meaning it is to be shared.  I can not tell you just how much God has blessed me for some of the charitable works I have done.  The blessing may be in the form of something material or it may be immaterial, but they will come for the true works of charity we have done.  The point is that we are to in no way promote what we have done or plan to do charity to promote ourselves. 

What we see today is Jesus calling is to true charity.  True charity is selfless.  True charity is giving with no expectation or even desire to receive anything in return.  It is giving for the sake of giving and blessing for the sake of blessing.  It is not about being blessed, praised, or being re-payed in any kind of way.  It is not to be a means of promoting ourselves or our generosity.  In other words, charity is all about the person you are giving the gift to and not at all about you.  That is true charity. That will be rewarded by our Father in heaven.  Once we begin to desire praise and recognition from men for the works that we do, then it is no longer charity.  Then it becomes about you and how "good" you are.  With that attitude, what you think is charity is just a means to some kind of payment just like any other kind of worldly job.  The payment is whatever pats on the back you get and nothing else.  So when we decide to be charitable, we have a choice.  We can do it in such a way to get the praise of man or we can do it in such a way that we will be rewarded by God Himself.  I don't know about you, but for me a reward from God is far superior than anything that can come from man. 
He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, And He will pay back what he has given.  Proverbs 19:17 NKJV

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