TABLETALK DEVOTIONS WITH R.C. SPROUL


TABLETALK DEVOTIONS WITH R.C. SPROUL

Giving with
Discretion
======================
Matthew 6:1–4 “Beware of practicing your
righteousness before other people in
order to be seen by them, for then you
will have no reward from your Father
who is in heaven” (v. 1).

Society
is apt to take notice whenever the wealthy establish a foundation for
the
sake of charitable giving. Such persons are lauded for their generosity
and
good work in giving to those in need. More often than not, these people
seek
this publicity, wanting us to know how open-handed they truly are.

The
world pursues the accolades of men, but God’s people are not to do the
same.
In fact, if we practice righteousness for the accolades of other
people,
Jesus tells us we have no reward from our Father in heaven (Matt.
6:1). He
applies this general principle to the three chief acts of Jewish
piety —
almsgiving, prayer, and fasting — beginning in today’s passage with
giving to
the poor.

Our Savior warns us against sounding the trumpet
when we give. In His own
context He may be referring to the priestly blowing
of the shofar (a ram’s
horn trumpet) whenever there is a great need in the
community. When this
happened in His day, there was often an ostentatious
display of men closing up
shop and running toward the temple to be the first
ones seen responding to the
call. Trumpet-shaped collection boxes where money
could be deposited to help
the poor were present at the temple in the first
century A.D., and these may
also be the basis for Christ’s analogy in verses
2–4. Coins thrown into these
boxes might make a loud noise, announcing that a
great gift has been given. In
any case, our Lord’s point is quite clear: Do
not give in order to receive
praise from men.

As Matthew Henry notes
in his commentary, Jesus does not teach that it is
always “unlawful to give
alms when men see us.” Sometimes the only way we can
help others is in front
of other people. In keeping with the perfect
righteousness Jesus has
described in Matthew 5, John Chrysostom reminds us
that Christ “is not
focusing simply on the outward act done but the inward
intent” (Homilies on
the Gospel of Saint Matthew, 19.2). Just as under the old
covenant (Deut.
15:11), Jesus assumes we will give to the poor, and this must
be done in
hopes for a reward from God, not from others (Matt. 6:4b). Let us
do all we
can to give our alms, but with the aim of caring so little for the
praise of
men that we are ourselves scarcely aware of our own generosity.

Coram
deo: Living before the face of
God
========================================
Augustine says, “The praise
of others need not even be sought by one who acts
rightly” (Sermon on the
Mount, 2.2.5). Keeping track of our giving is not
inconsistent with the
Lord’s admonition that we do not let our right hand know
what the left one is
doing. Yet we are not to keep track so that we may show
others just how good
we are. As you give your money to the poor, ask yourself
if you desire the
praise of men more than God’s commendation.

For further
study:

Ruth 3

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