“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.” – Matthew 6:1-6
Yesterday, we in the Christian community, around the world, celebrated Ash Wednesday, the official beginning of the Lenten season. Lent is the Christian season of preparation before Easter.
Following Ash Wednesday, the Christian church begins a 40-day journey to Easter. (Sundays are not included in the count.)
During this time, many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, and spiritual discipline.
While many Christians use this period to make sacrifices by depriving themselves of certain pleasures of the flesh, this is not required of Lutherans because it is not commanded by Holy Scripture. However, as a matter of Christian freedom, giving up pleasures of the flesh is a way of remembering the great sacrifice our Lord made to pay for our sins, when Jesus died on the cross.
In the text, Jesus instructs his disciples. He discusses four areas of a person’s life: giving alms, prayer, fasting and storing up treasures. However, for the purpose of this column, we will focus on only one, giving alms.
He warns the disciples against living like the hypocrite. This word hypocrite is an interesting word because it is the transliteration of the Greek word “hypokrites”, which refers to one who plays a part.
The Greek actors normally played on stage with a mask in front of their faces. The masks hid who the actors really were and allowed them to act as if they were someone else. The word “hypocrite” eventually came to mean someone who is acting or pretending to be someone or something else.
Jesus tells us that alms giving is a duty of the Christian. According to the Mosaic Law, the Israelites, who were of means, were to look after the poor. It is a responsibility from God.
Regretfully, the hypocrites, during Jesus’ time, gave to serve their own purpose. They gave simply for show, so that the public could see what they did.
Jesus forbade us to give like the hypocrites. We should not give simply to get accolades from the public but give because it is the right thing to do. Furthermore, we should not give those things which should be discarded. If they are not good for us, then they are not good for the poor.
When we give just to get the praise of man, we are getting our just reward here on earth. However, the more meaningful reward is that which comes from God.
Our Lord was so concerned about the privacy of our giving that He implores us, 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.
Therefore, as we live out our lives, let us remember to live as God would have us live. When we live according to God’s ways, we are on the right path. Unlike the hypocrite, let our lives be to glorify God. Amen.
• Rev. Samuel M. Boodle, pastor at The Lutheran Church of Nassau, 119 John F. Kennedy Drive, can be reached at P.O. Box N 4794, Nassau, Bahamas; or telephone: 426-9084; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.nassaulutheranchurch.org.