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. – Matthew 6:1-2
Jesus wasn’t calling them hypocrites because they gave to the poor, but because of the manner in which they gave. Too much of what the Pharisees and other religious leaders did was to impress and influence the common people. It could be that they didn’t feel righteous so to compensate they continually tried to prove their righteousness.
It seems that in every group of believers there is that one person who, in his heart of hearts, does not feel accepted so he often tries to prove his righteousness by volunteering for every job in the church and giving to every cause. His works of righteousness are good and worthy works, but his motivation is not faith based; it is approval based.
The situation with the Pharisees was a bit more severe than that. They actually did not have benevolence in their heart which is shown by the way they extract everything they can from the poor requiring them to live by the law as they interpreted it.
Jesus called them hypocrites, actors, showmen. The good works they did was to demonstrate their righteousness and establish their authority as religious leaders – it was not done to benefit the needy.
Jesus was certainly not wanting to discourage us from giving gifts to the poor, but he is calling us to a righteousness which exceeds that of the Pharisees. He is calling us to respond to the needs of others with compassion, not with piety.
Yes, there are rewards for having compassion for those in need, but the focus is not to be on the blessing but the opportunity to serve another who has a need. Jesus is again speaking to the condition of our heart and asking if we truly love the world as he loves the world.
Prayer: Lord, grant me a compassionate heart. In Jesus name, amen.
Message: Jesus was certainly not wanting to discourage us from giving gifts to the poor, but he is calling us to a righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees. He is calling us to respond to the needs of others with compassion, not with piety.
Affirmation: I am committed to sharing my life with others because I am constrained by the love of God. I give of all my resources; my time, talent and finances.
Reflection: Can you think of some of the reasons people do things to appear religious or spiritual? It would be good to examine your own life to see what motivates you to give of yourself to others.