Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. - Psalm 119:105

Bible Study Notes

Matthew 6: 1- 4

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
Charity that Pleases God

Charity that Pleases God
General Idea: This passage sets out to proclaim the true lasting motivations for our daily pursuits of giving, praying, and fasting, extending to other pursuits in the coming chapters (6:1-16). These motivations for rewards will show how we exhibit our piety before God and people. Such motivations can either glorify God or become of hypocritical contempt to God, as well as ridicule and shame for the Church. Jesus calls us to righteous giving, that we should only be giving to others in order to please God. We are not to seek to please ourselves, and certainly not others. When we only seek the praise of others, our giving becomes fuel for selfishness, and God is not glorified. Our reward will only be the momentary praise, and a much greater reward will become lost due to our misplaced motivations. God will not reward us twice, so, we must choose which reward we want, one from feeble temporary people, or one from the Great, Eternal God.  

1.   Do not do your chartable deeds before men: Jesus is affirming the positive value of such deeds. But, He also warns that they must be done with the correct, proper attitudes and motivations.

a.   Classic Judaism states that our motivation for performing good deeds should not be for rewards from others. Rather, we should wait for our reward in Judgment. Jesus affirms this classic teaching, and challenges the teachers of the Law to uphold it. They, of course, did not, as they proclaimed elaborate displays, and speaking to draw attention to themselves when they gave, the opposite of what they thought (Tobit 12:8 [Jewish Text])!

                                                  i.   Charity was so essential to the Law that some rabbis were teaching that alms giving meant a sure place in Heaven. The Law did not teach this.

                                                ii.   The Law stated that you could give up to 20% of your tithe to the poor, but no more than that. Otherwise, the priests would not have enough funds to run the county. OT tithes were also state taxes. You could, of course, give more from your personal discretionary income, just as we do today.

b.   This passage (6:1-18) is in a set of three--giving, praying, and fasting. This is common, classic, Jewish teaching, which Jesus is following. Three has the significance of adding more emphases in power and meaning.

c.   The Romans did not believe in charity. They felt that people should work for their food and wages. If a person was poor, it was because they were too lazy to work, or their family forsook their responsibility. However, wealthy Greeks and Romans would build public works projects such as gyms, bathrooms, and housing, to gain popularity and support for their aspirations--personally and/or politically. As you can see, human motivations and thinking have not changed in thousands of years!  

2.   Alms, or charitable deeds in most manuscripts, are from the Greek word eleemosunen, which refers specifically to almsgiving, or charitable deeds. While there are some older manuscripts that the NASB uses that have the Greek word dikaiosunen, which refers more to righteousness. The difference is that one is speaking in specific terms, while the other is more general. Since the context of the passage refers to several points from specific to general, either word would fit the context. However, there is greater textual support for the word dikaiosunen.

a.   We are not to exhibit righteousness, just to be seen by others! This does not mean to avoid all or any practice of righteousness (Matt. 5:16). Rather, it is to avoid doing them JUST to be recognized and self-glorified.

                                                  i.   We cannot secure the praise for God when we are trying to secure praise for ourselves!

                                                ii.   The consequences for our misplaced motivations are that we miss our real, and true reward, which is far richer, better, and more lasting than temporary human praises.

b.   What we do in secret will be made known (Ecc 12:14; 2 Cor. 5:10) to God, and even to others, if God so desires. 

3.   No reward: This was a proclamation that submission to God was more crucial, and essential for life and faith, than personal agendas. By giving to the poor in secret, we are showing our love to God, rather than seeking personal glory (Psalm 41:1-3).

a.   Trumpet Jesus is using 'hyperbolic speech', which is exaggeration, to make His point. Obviously people did not blow trumpets when they gave, but they did make it known when, and how much, they gave. Also, the charity box at the temple was in the shape of a trumpet! Jesus is the Master teacher, and He often uses humor and word plays to get His point across that are clear in the Greek, but not in English.

b.   Hypocrites: This literally means acting, or an actor in a play. It is one who claims to have a relationship with God, and to be following His precepts, while actually doing the opposite. The ancient actors did this by holding up masks to proclaim their part in the play, and their expression of feelings, while their real feelings were hidden. The hypocrites in the Church seek themselves, and their agenda, under the façade of being a Christian. Sometimes their evil is so ingrained in them that they do not even realize they are hypocrites, as Jesus points out in chapter 23.

                                                  i.   Some of the religious people in Jesus time were very charitable. The Pharisees would give 10--20% percent to God (Luke 18:11-12). They tithed everything, even seeds (Luke 11:42). However, their deeds did not please God because their motivations were wrong! 

                                                ii.   Remember Jesus taught His disciples to have a righteousness that exceeded that of the Pharisees, meaning they must be real in their faith, and in their walk in Christ (Matt. 5:20)! The Scribes and Pharisees were practicing the art of hypocrisy--not righteousness!

c.   Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing: This is another word play. Many Middle Eastern cultures ate with one hand and wiped their rears with the other. You did not want to do these at the same time, or with the same hand! This means not only avoiding the praise of others but from yourself as well (1 Tim. 6:17-19).

                                                  i.   In classic Jewish thought the right hand represented a good deed, and the left, my good opinion about the deed.

                                                ii.   This does not mean we are reckless with our financial giving. Rather, it means that it becomes second nature, without much thought, as anything we do in righteousness (Acts 2: 44-45; 4:34-37).

d.   Reward in full, or He Himself will reward you: This refers to the theme of a business transaction that has been repaid, a receipt for it.  

Jesus does not pay any attention to the people who say one thing and do another, nor does He pay attention to misplaced motivations or religious gab and gossip! Is He paying attention to you?  


1.   Have you ever acted in a play? If so, did you find it difficult to display one set of feelings and actions while having a different set inside of you?


2.   Do you think you are you a charitable person? If so, are you sure that your charity is pleasing to God? Why, or why not?


3.   Have you ever considered that some forms of charity actually displease God?


4.   What would Jesus say about your true motivations in your daily pursuits of piety, such as in giving?


5.   Why are our motivations for rewards important?


6.   Motivations will glorify God or will be hypocritical and contemptible to God, as well as bring ridicule and shame to the Church. Why?


7.   Jesus calls us to righteous giving. So, what have you done about it?


8.   What are the different ways to give? Remember, money is only one aspect of giving. We also have time, talent, and treasures. Can you think of others?


9.   Which is more important to you, the praise of others, or the greater reward to come, from God?


10. Why would Christians be motivated by the temporary praise of people, and not the eternal reward of God?


11. How do you feel that your reward for your good deeds might be lost, due to your misplaced motivations?


12. What are the right and proper attitudes and motivations for giving, and how can you possess them?


13. What are ways, in your observations, that people draw attention to themselves in giving? Does that repel you, or motivate you, and why?


14. The Romans, as well as many today, did not believe in charity. They believed that people should work for their food and wages. If a person was poor it was because they were too lazy to work, or their family forsook the responsibility to care for them. What do you think, and what is the balance between giving, regardless of the situation, as we are not responsible for any motivations but our own, and giving with discernment?


15. What we do in secret will be made known. How can this motivate you to give righteously and secretly?


16. What do you need to do to make sure your motivation is submission to God, because that is more crucial and essential for your life and faith than any personal agendas?


17. Why is it that the hypocrites in the Church seek their personal agenda under the façade of being a Christian? Sometimes, their evil is so ingrained in them they do not even realize they are hypocrites, as Jesus points out in Matthew, chapter 23. Do you believe this? Why, or why not?


18. We are not to be reckless with our financial giving. Rather, it should become "second nature," without much thought, as anything we do in righteousness should be. So, how can your giving reflect God's precepts?


19. What can you do to have a righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees, meaning, being real in your faith, and your walk in Christ (Matt. 5:20)?


20. It has been said that the check register is a great sign to determine the spiritual health of that person. How does your check register or bank statement reflect your relationship in Christ?


© 2002 R. J. Krejcir Into Thy Word Ministries 

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