A Study of Matthew 6:1-4
Originally published 5/2/2003
“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. 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.” (from the NIV)
I find this passage to be rather interesting. It is one that, in our church services, is almost discouraged at times. Many churches “pass the hat” during their services and many pastors feel the pressure to even make a public display of giving their tithes and offerings as a way to encourage others to give. What really gets me is when there are special times of giving where we announce, Joe gave $1000, Frank is going to match em… etc.
Now, let me first state, this is a matter of personal convictions. I just have a tendency to take Jesus at his word. He emphasized the issue by saying “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” This is of course figurative but the truth of it is strong, giving should be done in such a way that others do not even know you have given.
So how does this affect us?
If giving is to be in secret, maybe churches should not pass the hat but provide other more private means for people to give. Yeah, I can see pastors panic now. “People wouldn’t give if we don’t pass the hat!”
I pastored a church for four years without an offering time. We provided a place for people to slip their tithes and offerings in when they wanted, before or after the service. 100% of our members tithed and gave additional offerings and many visitors gave as well. Of course, we were a small church and larger churches would have to work out the logistics but I truly believe that Christians want to tithe and give offerings. I also believe the Lord blesses not only the givers but also the church that encourages giving in secret. [ed: I now attend a large church which has offering boxes around the four corners of the auditorium where people can give as acts of worship, I don’t know if it is financially working but I certainly believe it is spiritually working]
If giving is to be in secret, maybe we shouldn’t even use our giving as a tax deduction. Ok, this one will rile a lot of people. However, to me, the “need” to have it as a tax deduction is an indication of a lack of trust in the Lord. Oof, yeah, low blow. Again, this is personal conviction and there is no law or doctrine that needs to be set out. It is simply a question of “Do You Trust God?”
A story in Acts has always struck me as an interesting story. I think quite possibly God was trying to show us the importance of why Jesus would say to give in secret. Acts 4:32-5:11 is the story of contrasts, a man, Barnabas, who gives everything gladly and a couple, Annanias and Sapphira, who conspire to look like Barnabas, probably to get the honor he did. They lie to God – yes, the congregation too, but that isn’t really the point of the story – about what they are giving. As such, that couple ended up struck down dead before the church.
The story is a visual representation of the simple truth, when we give to the church, we give to God and it is only God that matters. When we give in a public manner so that the giver receives honor from others in the church, it can lead to disaster. Jesus also says, we get exactly what we wanted, temporary honor from people and squat from God.
Congregations need to consider the ramifications of the methods of giving, how they encourage people to give so that they do not lead people down a wrong path. Most importantly, Christians need to always consider the fact that giving is an act of faith in God. He will supply our needs. When congregations lean on other means and methods of encouraging people to give they are discouraging faith and leading people down the path seen in Acts 5. When a group of believers gather together and encourage faith, that faith is then expressed in giving just like we see in Acts 4.
Jesus said, “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.” Give in secret, “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Written by William Reveal 5/2/2003
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