In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus covers many bases from marriage to giving, murder to prayer, revenge to fasting, judging others to worrying and yet there is an overarching message as well. The Sermon outlines how we are to live a life that glorifies Him. Since we are just two days away from celebrating His birth, and a mere eight days away from the end of the year, it seems like an ideal time to talk about giving. And Jesus’ instruction from Matthew 6 is the perfect place to start.
Jesus warned: “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.” (Matthew 6:1)
My much beloved niece, Caitlin, is a twentysomething and I am blessed to know many of her friends. They are such an philanthropic group. Service is just a part of who they are. Two of her closest friends are sacrificing so much to show others the love of Christ. They live in Kolkata, caring for girls rescued from forced prostitution. But I would think keeping a pure and humble heart would be a tremendous challenge — such a temptation to feel prideful over their acts of righteousness. Because for me personally even the puniest sacrifice can lead to a prideful puffing up. Yet as Jesus describes in Matthew 6, embracing the honor or approval of others, or touting the sacrifice, means that our reward will be limited to earthly accolades. And that’s certainly not what we want.
Instead Jesus says that “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. Then your Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:3-4) It paints quite a picture, doesn’t it? We need to be about giving for the sake of giving, not for the praise we may receive, or the tax deduction we can take.
The standards Jesus lays out in the Sermon on the Mount are high. Like some others this one seems impossible: giving without knowing, sacrificing without acknowledging. But we need to remember that this is a heart issue. Jesus is always focused on the heart, and He is ever-willing to purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9).
So as we give gifts in the next few days and as we contribute to churches and missions in the next week, let us pray that we will have pure, generous, worshipful hearts — hearts that please our Savior and earn eternal rewards.