“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others 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 others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 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. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Before we consider see this week’s Upside-Down Kingdom text, let’s take a quick look at some origins of giving. God told His people to give to the needy with a wide-open hand; God commanded His people to share what they have.
If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the Lord against you, and you be guilty of sin. You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ (Deuteronomy 15:7–11)
This week is not about changing or leaving behind the righteous acts God commanded us to do. For example, we are still expected to give and pray—but Jesus points out the needfulness of authenticity within our actions, rather than the sinful motivation for self-glorification.
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven,” Matthew 6:1 says.
Notice that Jesus exposes the problem right away: When we practice righteousness to be seen by others, we do it for the wrong reasons and God is not proud of it. If we seek to steal the glory that points people to God, we become more of a road block than a bridge to God.
“When you give to the needy . . .” the text continues. Did you notice that giving is not optional? Jesus retains the Deuteronomic command to hold our hands wide-open when we give to those in need, even as He instructs us to set our hearts in the right place, also.
Questions for reflection and discussion: What are the commands in Deuteronomy that Jesus assumes His followers will follow? Why is it important to note that Jesus leaves no option for ignoring these commands? How does Jesus take this a step further in His teaching?
This week’s devotions were written by Saul Flores. Saul is the Puente del Pueblo High School Program Coordinator. Saul and his wife, Abby, did missionary work in Mexico for many years before moving to the Chicago area.