Llandudno - James 2:14

What on Earth have we done with the Teachings of Jesus? ~ Do good deeds secretly ~

In my little study of the teachings of Jesus, I found there were 83 key topics. Having covered the top ten in previous blogs, today’s topic is to ‘Do good deeds secretly’.

Poem of the Day

 The Gladness of Giving
 The world seems more concerned
 With the getting than the giving.
 Grab all you can, it says
 Life is for the living.
 Modern society with all its greed
 Its cunning and deceiving
 Cannot conceive that happiness can lie
 More in giving than receiving.
 Offer everything you have to Jesus
 Loose yourself from the world’s fetters
 Remember the happiest people are not
 The grabbers and the getters.
 Let us truly be those people 
 Who with great joy believe
 That it is always more blessed
 To give than to receive.
 By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019) 

In these days of social media how difficult it can appear to conceive that there are any secrets left. We know what people have for breakfast, where they went for a day out and what they think of this issue or that issue. But when it comes to what charitable work people do, there ought to be exceptions. It may be deemed to be ‘spreading the good news’ when someone posts a story of feeding a beggar on the streets, or being involved in a social action programme. But Jesus warns us against about doing our good works for all to see.

“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. 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 honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full,” Matt 6:1. This is a very clear direction.

Do we want our reward in heaven?

In the brain there are ‘reward centres’. Studies have shown that the same regions in the brain are stimulated by the ‘likes’ they receive from a social media post, as those that are activated by eating chocolate or winning prizes. Christians can be just as tempted to share their ‘good deeds’ on social media in order to gain those coveted ‘likes’. Social media apart, there is a strong temptation to tell others of some good deed that we’ve done. We all like to be seen as a ‘good egg’. But do we want our reward here on earth, a well done by a friend. Or do we want our reward to be infinitely greater in heaven and hear a ‘well done’ by our Lord?

Henry says – In the former chapter of Matthew Jesus armed His disciples against the corrupt doctrines and opinions of the scribes and Pharisees. In this chapter He warns them against their corrupt practices; that of hypocrisy and worldly-mindedness. These are sins which those who profess faith need to most guard themselves against. These sins most easily beset those who have escaped the grosser pollutions that are in the world through lust. They are therefore highly dangerous.

As Christians we are to avoid heart-sins such as heart-adultery and heart-murder. We are to do what we do from an inward conviction that we may be approved of God and not that we may be applauded by men. Thus we must watch against hypocrisy. Almsgiving, prayer and fasting, are three great Christian duties. By them we do homage and service to God. By prayer with our souls, by fasting with our bodies and by alms-giving with our wealth. Thus we must not only depart from evil, but do good, and do it well, and so dwell for evermore.

We cannot go to heaven without them

In these verses we are cautioned against hypocrisy in the giving of alms. Take heed of it. This intimates that it is sin that we are in great danger of. It is a subtle sin. Vain-glory insinuates itself into what we do, seeking its own glory. The disciples would be tempted to it by the power they had to do many wondrous works. It is a sin we are in great danger of. Take heed of hypocrisy, for if it reign in you, it will ruin you. It is the dead fly that spoils the whole box of precious ointment.

Two things are taken for granted here. The giving of alms is a great duty, and a duty which all the disciples of Christ, according to their ability, must abound in. It is prescribed by the law of nature and of Moses, and great stress is laid upon it by the prophets. For alms are righteousness, (Ps. 112:9 They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor, their righteousness endures forever; their horn will be lifted high in honour).

The Jews called the poor’s box the box of righteousness. That which is given to the poor is said to be their due, Prov. 3:27. It is true, our alms-deeds do not deserve heaven, but it is also true that we cannot go to heaven without them. It is pure religion (Jas. 1:27), and will be the test at the great day. Christ here takes it for granted that His disciples give alms, nor will He own those who do not.

He will reward them for what they have done

This duty has a great reward accompanying it, which is lost if it be done in hypocrisy. It is sometimes rewarded in temporal things with plenty (Prov. 11:24 One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. Prov 19:17 Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward them for what they have done). 

It will secure him from being in want (Prov. 28:27 Those who give to the poor will lack nothing. Ps. 37:21 the righteous give generously and those the Lord blesses will inherit the land). It provides them help in distress (Ps. 41:1-2 Blessed are those who have regard for the weak; the Lord delivers them in times of trouble). It also provides them with honour and a good name. However more importantly it shall be recompensed in the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:14 in eternal riches).

Quas dederis, solas semper habebis, opesThe riches you impart form the only wealth you will always retain.—Martial.

The practice of the hypocrites was that they did indeed give alms, but not from any principle of obedience to God, or love to man, but in pride and self-glory. It was not in compassion to the poor, but purely to show off, that they might be extolled as good men, and so might gain the esteem of the people. This was to serve their own end, and to get a great deal more than they gave.

Choose to give when it is less observed

They chose to give their alms in the synagogues, and in the streets, where there was the greatest number of people to observe them. It is not unlawful to give alms when men see us. But we should rather choose to give when it is less observed. The hypocrites would sound a trumpet when giving their alms. This would be under the pretence of calling the poor together to be served, but really it was to have their giving taken notice of.

Christ passes their doom: I say unto you, they have their reward [already]. At first view this seems a promise—If they have their reward they have enough, but two words in it make it threatening. It is a reward, but it is their reward. Not the reward which God promises to them who do good, but a poor reward. They did it to be seen of men, choosing their own delusions for they have cheated themselves. Carnal professors desire preferment, honour and wealth, and they shall have their bellies filled with those things (Ps. 17:14). But let them not expect any more.

The right hand may be used in helping the poor, lifting them up, writing for them, dressing their sores, and other ways besides giving to them. But, “whatever kindness your right hand does to the poor, Do not let your left hand know it. Conceal it as much as possible, industriously keep it private. Do it because it is a good work, not because it will give you a good name.” 

It is a reward, but it is a present reward. There is none reserved for them in the future state. They now have all that they are likely to have from God and have none to hope for in the hereafter. What rewards the godly have in this life are but in part of payment; there is more to come, much more. But the hypocrites have their all in this world, so shall their doom be. They have decided it for themselves. The world is but for provision to the saints, it is their spending-money. But it is pay to hypocrites, it is their portion.

Conceal it as much as possible

Matt. 6:3-4 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. Christ was Himself such an example of humility and He pressed it upon His disciples. It is absolutely necessary to the acceptance of their performances. “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing when thou give alms.”

It is intimated that we must not let others know what we do not even those who are very near us. Instead of acquainting them with it, keep it from them if possible. We must not observe it too much ourselves. The left hand is a part of ourselves, we must take too much notice of the good we do. We must not applaud and admire ourselves. Self-conceit and self-complacency, and an adoring of our own shadow are branches of pride. They are as dangerous as vain-glory and showing off before men.

He Himself shall reward you

Yet He will Himself be the Reward (Gen. 15:1), your exceedingly great reward. He will reward you as your Father, not as a master who gives his servant just what he earns and no more, but as a father who gives abundantly more to his son who serves him. He shall even reward you openly, if not in the present day, yet in the Great day. Then shall every man have praise from God, open praise confessed before men. If the work be not open, the reward shall, and that is better.

                                Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary

What is the promise to those who are so sincere and humble in their alms-giving? Let your alms-giving be in secret, and then your Father who sees in secret will observe them. When we take least notice of our good deeds ourselves, God takes the most notice of them. Just as God hears the wrongs done to us when we do not hear them (Ps. 38:14,-15), so He sees the good done by us, when we do not see it. Just as it is a terror to hypocrites, so it is a comfort to sincere Christians, that God sees in secret.

But this is not all. Not only the observation and praise, but the compensation is of God, He Himself shall reward you openly. They who in their alms-giving study to approve themselves to God, turn themselves over to Him as their Paymaster. The hypocrite catches only the shadows, but the upright man ensures the substance. It is emphatically expressed; God Himself shall reward, He will Himself be the Rewarder. (Heb. 11:6 without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him). Let Him alone make it up in kind or kindness.

Prayer for the Day

Prayer: Father I come to You.  May I be one who avoids heart-sins such as heart-adultery and heart-murder. Cause me to do what I do from an inward conviction that I may be approved by You. May my life be characterised by doing good, prayer and fasting that I do homage and service to You. May I resist all subtle sins and never do a good work for vain-glory to seek my own glory.

Cause me to always choose to give when it is less observed. May my life be marked by humility for I know it is absolutely necessary to the acceptance of my performances. May I never acquaint others with my good works but keep it from them as much as possible. Cause me to never applaud and admire it in myself. For I know that You reward those things done in secret and You alone are my very great reward. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.

What on Earth have we done with the Teachings of Jesus? read more here

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