Proper Motives & Practices of Giving – Matthew 6:2-4

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Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

July 13, 2014

Proper Motives & Practices of Giving

Matthew 6:2-4


People seem to have a natural desire that other people should think well of them. From the mundane to the extraordinary, we strive to make a good impression upon other people. One way in which people may try to impress others is through their generosity. I think of the foundations that have been set up by wealthy individuals with their names as the titles. Many schools & even some universities bear the name of the benefactor that established them. Buildings are also commonly named after some great benefactor of the project. And for those who do not have vast sums of money, they can still get their names put where everyone else can see by contributing a lesser amount and having that noted on a plaque or a brick or published in the organization’s newsletter. Hospitals, alumni associations, zoos, and charitable organizations commonly do such things.

But it also occurs in the church. Pews get a little plaque attached to them. Stained glass windows have the family name etched in them. Hallways have large boards where the names of large contributors are displayed. I visited one church where not only were there little bronze placards on almost every piece of church furniture, but the walk ways around the church had special bricks set in them that had the names of the contributor engraved in them.

What does God think about all of this? Do gifts given in that manner make any impression on Him? Is there any eternal value to such gifts? What benefit is there to the one who gave?


Last week we started studying a new section of the Sermon on the Mount. The theme is still the same – your righteousness must surpass that of the Scribes and Pharisees if you are to enter the kingdom of heaven – but the emphasis is slightly different.

In the Beatitudes at the beginning of the Sermon, Jesus described the character qualities that would be seen in those that are truly righteous: Poor in spirit, mournful, meek, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and suffering at the hands of the unrighteous. Jesus then contrasted the teaching of the self-righteous religious leaders with the true spirit and application of the very Mosaic Law that these men claimed to follow. Jesus corrected them on the issues of murder and hatred, adultery and lust, divorce, vows and integrity, revenge, and loving others. Now Jesus turns His attention to the religious practices of the scribes and Pharisees and contrasts their actions and attitudes with those of true righteousness in three specific areas: Giving alms, Prayer, and Fasting.

Last week we examined the principal that underlies each of the three examples. The motivation of the heart is the critical element of the religious practice, not the religious practice itself. True righteousness is concerned only about what God thinks, while self-righteousness concerns itself with what men think. Look again at Matthew 6:1, Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. If you do your righteous deeds for the purpose of getting noticed by other men, then the only reward you will receive is their praise. You will not receive any reward from God because you did it for your own glory and not for His.

Giving Alms – Matthew 6:2-4

Matthew 6:2-4 is Jesus’ first specific example contrasting the proper practice of a righteous act with the religious exercises of the scribes and Pharisees. When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

Notice the first phrase in verse 2, When therefore you give alms, and verse 3, when you give alms. This is not a conditional statement of “if you give alms,” or “when you happen to given alms,” etc. Jesus states this as something that is assumed that they will do. It is something they were expected to do – “When you give alms.” Giving was a normal activity of the religious Jews. It not an unusual or even a special activity. It is just part of the normal activities of life for the person that was striving to live a righteous life. He would give alms. That is still true today.

But what does it mean to “give alms.” Giving alms (ejlehmosu;nh / ele mosun ) is simply any act of mercy or pity. It came to be used primarily of giving money, food, or clothing to the poor. We usually use the word charity to signify this now. To give alms is to do a work of charity, in fact the word is translated as “a charitable deed” in the NKJV and as “give to the needy” in the ESV.

The idea of giving to someone out of charity should not be a surprise to anyone. The Old Testament has many passages telling the Israelites to take care of the poor among them. Deuteronomy 15:7-11 states, 7 If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; 8 but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need [in] whatever he lacks. 9 Beware, lest there is a base thought in your heart, saying, ‘The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,’ and your eye is hostile toward your poor brother, and you give him nothing; then he may cry to the Lord against you, and it will be a sin in you. 10 You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings. 11 For the poor will never cease [to be] in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.’”

Leviticus 25:35 adds, “Now in case a countryman of yours becomes poor and his means with regard to you falter, then you are to sustain him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. Do not take usurious interest from him, but revere your God, that your countryman may live with you. You shall not give him your silver at interest, nor your food for gain. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.”

The same principles are repeated in the New Testament. John 13:29 indicates that Jesus and the disciples would give to the poor from the money bag they carried. Jesus contrasted the teaching of the scribes to seek revenge with the charitable nature of true righteousness by commanding in Matthew 5:42 to instead, “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” The Apostle John points out the importance of Christians being charitable in 1 John 3:17, “but whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”

In very simple terms, a Christian is to be marked by generous charity to the poor. This should not be considered a special action, but just the outworking of the love of God in their heart and extending to others what God has provided for them. It really should not be anything noteworthy. Among Christians it should be the normal and common response of compassion upon those who are in need.

Wrong Motives and Practice

But as in the case for so many things that God has commanded, the idea of giving became twisted and the letter of the law usurped the spirit of the law. Man used giving for his own ends and for his own glory rather than God’s. Such was the case again with the scribes and Pharisees in the matter of giving alms. Their concern was gaining the honor of their fellow man for themselves instead of doing it to please God and bring Him honor. Jesus’ first instruction regarding giving alms is to not follow their example. Matthew 6:2, “When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.”

We get some idea of their twisted thinking concerning charitable giving when we look at some of the Jewish apocryphal books. These were books written during the time between the Old Testament and the New Testament. They are religious books, but they are not written by any of God’s prophets, so they are not Scripture. The evidence that they are purely the work of man and not that of God comes out in reading them. For example Tobit 12:8 says, “It is better to give to charity than to lay up gold. For charity will save a man from death; it will expiate any sin.” The Wisdom of Sirach 3:30 adds, “As water will quench a flaming fire, so charity will atone for sin.” It was this kind of thinking that led many Jews to believe that it was easier for a rich man to get to heaven because they could do more acts of charity and atone for their sin. They could justify themselves as being righteous even if they were proud and boastful in their practice of charity because they believed they were paying off the penalty of their sins. The same twisted thinking developed within Roman Catholicism very early. Pope Leo the Great (440-461) declared, “By prayer we seek to appease God, by fasting we extinguish the lust of the flesh, and by alms we redeem our sins.” Scripture declares that salvation comes only by God’s grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and not of works lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). The Bible is emphatic that you cannot earn salvation. Giving alms and doing charitable work does nothing to reduce the penalty of sin.

Jesus demonstrates they were proud and boastful by pointing out that they blew trumpets to call attention to what they were doing. Some commentators point out that there are no archeological or extra-Biblical sources that indicate that these religious leaders actually had trumpets blown when they gave alms. They conclude that Jesus may have been using a figure of speech though they do not explain what such a figure of speech would represent. Just because they did not yet find an additional source describing this practice does not mean it did not occur. It seems to me that the words of Jesus as recorded by Matthew are a reliable first hand witness of what these religious hypocrites did. Others sources do confirm that it was a common practice to hire mourners for funerals who would wail and cry for the deceased and the family. If such a hypocritical practice would occur on such a solemn occasion, then certainly something similar could occur when a person wanted to call attention to their generosity. And as one commentator pointed out, it may have even served a useful purpose in calling all the poor over to the benefactor to receive alms.

They loudly called attention to themselves when they gave alms, but notice as well that their giving was done in “the Synagogues and on the streets” which are public places. They gave the pretense to those around that they were very righteous by their acts of generosity when in fact their main concern was what other men thought about them and not what God thought. As we noted last week from Luke 16:13-15, Jesus said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.” As John 12:43 points out, these were people that “loved the approval of men more than the approval of God.” Their only reward would be the honor men gave them, because there would be no reward from God.

God has never wanted empty religious observances. Throughout history He has rejected the worship of those that practice it in form but not in heart. Cain’s offering was rejected for that reason. Israel and Judah were carried off into captivity for that reason. Their false worship was highly esteemed among men, but detestable in the sight of God. Isaiah 1:10-15 is as clear as any passage demonstrating God’s revulsion at false worship.

10 Hear the word of the Lord, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the instruction of our God, You people of Gomorrah. 11 What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me? Says the Lord. I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams, And the fat of fed cattle. And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats. 12 When you come to appear before Me, Who requires of you this trampling of My courts? 13 Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies– I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. 14 I hate your new moon [festivals] and your appointed feasts, They have become a burden to Me. I am weary of bearing [them.] 15 So when you spread out your hands [in prayer,] I will hide My eyes from you, Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.

God will not reward alms given from a false heart because He turns away from the person giving them. All that will be left will be the empty praise of men.

But don’t think that this admonition applies only to outward calls for the attention of men. There are many more subtle ways to do something for the purpose of gaining the honor of men without tooting your own horn. What about these little placards and awards of recognition that are given by so many institutions including churches? What about the listing of donors printed by so many charitable organizations in their newsletters and magazine? What about when you see a need and you meet that need, but you also make sure that the person knows who met that need. What is the real motive? Did you really want to just meet the need? Some people give as a means to gain a measure of control. If it is to gain the person’s gratitude, why is it not enough to know that God used you to meet that need? Is the giving done to please other people and yourself, or to please God?

Righteous Motives and Practice – Matthew 6:3-4

Jesus states that when we give, it is to be from a heart that seeks to please God rather than man. It is a heart that responds from compassion, not from selfishly seeking honor. It is a heart that shuns attention and does its work quietly without calling attention to itself. Matthew 6:3-4, “When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

The right hand was considered the primary hand of action and during the course of a day it would do many things that would not involve the left hand. The phrase “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” simply means that giving should be something so normal, without special effort or show, that the left hand would not be involved with what the right hand was doing. It would be unaware. Giving should be so normal that no consideration would be given to what other men may think. The action rises from a heart that unconcerned with anything other than serving God and carrying out His will.

What Jesus says here about giving in secret does not contradict what He said earlier in Matthew 5:16 about letting your light so shine before me that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. In Matthew 5:16 Jesus is emphasizing that we are not to be afraid of demonstrating our righteousness before men. In Matthew 6:4 Jesus is emphasizing that we are not to practice righteousness in order to get glory from men. In both passages Jesus is speaking to the issue of the motivation of the heart. Why do you do what you do? As A.B. Bruce well put it, “We are to show when tempted to hide and hide when tempted to show.” In both cases the motive must be God’s glory and not your own.

The question of true righteousness is and remains what is the motivation of the heart? Is it to bring glory to God or to bring glory to self? When your desire and practice is only to bring glory to God, then He is the one that gives a reward. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather receive a reward from God than from men.

Principles to Practice

Let me give you six very simple principles to help guide you in putting all this into practice. Most of these are principles that I learned from the teachings of John MacArthur.

1) Giving from the heart is investing with God. In Luke 6:38 our Lord tells us, “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap.” Paul says about the same thing in 2 Corinthians 9:6, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountiful.” Giving from the heart is investing with God.

2) Genuine giving is to be sacrificial. It is not the amount that is important to God but its size in comparison to what is possessed. In Mark 12:41-44 Jesus commended the widow who gave two small copper coins to the Temple treasury and said it was more than all of the large sums of the many rich people because, “they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” In 2 Samuel 24:24 we find that David refused to give to the Lord that which cost him nothing. Genuine giving will cost you.

3) The responsibility to give and income level are not related. Luke 16:10 makes it plain that “he who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” A poor person who is stingy will be stingy if they were rich. They might increase the amount, but they will not increase the percentage. IRS statistics show that the rich actually give less than the poor. They give less as a percentage of income. They also give less as a sum total in comparing the economic classes. One reason we teach our children to give even out of their small amounts of money is to develop in them attitudes and patterns that will stay with them into adulthood. Income level is not related to the responsibility to give.

4) Material giving correlates with spiritual blessing. Luke 16:11 goes on to say, “If therefore you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous mammon, who will entrust the true riches to you?” Unrighteous mammon is a test to what you can be entrusted with spiritually. Related to this, Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” What you do with your material goods will demonstrate what controls your heart. Material giving correlates with spiritual blessing.

5) We are to give to meet needs, not wants. The early Christians gave sacrificially and without reservation to meet the needs of fellow believers. Those in Jerusalem even sold their property to help provide for fellow believers. The churches in Macedonia gave liberally even though they themselves were poor. However, there are also those that have an entitlement mentality and in essence are professional beggars. They expect others to provide for them without or with little effort on their own part. We have no obligation to them. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10 Paul said, “If anyone will not work, neither let him eat.” Determine the need and meet the need, not the want. Some want you to support them, but they need to be told to go to work. We are to give to meet actual needs, not wants.

6) Giving is to be personally determined. The New Testament contains no commands for specific amounts or percentages of giving. The New Testament principle is stated clearly in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7,

6 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”The percentage you give will be determined by the love of your own heart and the needs of others. Giving is to be personally determined.

I have several things against the idea that the church is to receive a tithe (10% – was that gross or net?) from everyone. First, it is in complete contradiction to 2 Corinthians 9:7 which I just read. The percentage of income a person gives is related to their faith which is based on their understanding and trust in the Lord. If they do not have enough faith to give more, then their faith has to increase. To demand a certain percentage makes them give out of compulsion and often grudgingly.

Second, in practice it puts a cap on what a person gives. They give 10% and then think their obligation to God is met. Again, giving is not a matter of obligation, it is a demonstration of a heart that is truly righteous, loves God, trusts God, and desires to share God’s blessings with others. If you give 10% – a tithe – because you think that is your obligation, then you do not understand giving. God may want you to be giving a lot more than that either as a demonstration of your faith, or because the need is greater than that or both.

Also, giving is more than just what you may put in the Faith Box to support the financial obligations of this church. There are a lot more needs than just this local church. Giving is a matter of the heart. God wants you to have such a trust in Him that if you see a brother in need and have means to meet that need, you do so out of the natural flow of living for Christ. Your trust is that God will provide for you. He is your security. Your life revolves around pleasing Him and not amassing material possessions.

Keep in mind that proper giving is both planned and spontaneous. Paul told the Corinthians in advance that he was coming and would be taking up a collection for the support of the poor saints and so they needed to plan accordingly (2 Corinthians 8). This corresponds to your budgeting practice. You plan in advance how you will spend your income according to the priorities you have set instead of being taken advantage of by marketing techniques to purchase all sorts of things you don’t need and soon discover you don’t really even want. Proverbs 3:9-10 sets the priority and the reward for the righteous, 9 “Honor the Lord from your wealth And from the first of all your produce; 10 So your barns will be filled with plenty And your vats will overflow with new wine.”

But giving is also to be spontaneous as explained 1 John 3:17, 17 “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” This can occur suddenly because real needs can arise suddenly. If you have the means to meet the need, then you do even though it will cut into your budget in other areas. For example, someone has a need for food, so you share what you have. That means you will eat less yourself or purchase less expensive food to make up the difference. Or perhaps you purchase something for someone or pay one of their bills. You then figure out where you will have to cut back within your various budget categories to meet that need. It could be as simple as cutting back on eating out by taking a sack lunch or skipping a meal, or foregoing an item of clothing you were going to buy, or skipping some recreational activity. It could also be much more sacrificial, but according to Ephesians 4:28, we are to labor so that we will have something to share with the one who has need.


If you give to impress people, then be warned that the only reward you get is their honor. You will get nothing from God. If you are giving grudgingly out of compulsion, then please do not. You are not pleasing the Lord and He does not need your money. Get your heart right with Him and then give out of love for Him. His desire for each one is to demonstrate your righteousness by giving without thought for what men think of us, to meet genuine needs, to be sacrificially generous, and to do it all cheerfully. I pray those are marks of your life – or soon will be as you consider the needs around you and how the Lord may desire to work His will through you.


Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up. 2) Count how many times “giving” is said. Talk with your parents about what you should do to give to the Lord


Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. How does charitable giving produce a favorable impression on others? What is the theme of the Sermon on the Mount? How do the Beatitudes fit that theme? How does Jesus’ correction of the teaching of the Scribes in Matthew 5 fit that theme? How does Matthew 6:1 fit that theme? Was the giving of alms option or expected? Explain. What does it mean to give alms? What did the Old Testament teach about giving alms? What does the New Testament teach? What were the motives of the Pharisees in giving alms? How did they think it would help them with God? How did they get people to notice their giving of alms? What are some of the ways that people now publically proclaim their charitable giving? What does God think of these practices? What should the motive be for charitable giving? How do Matthew 5:16 and Matthew 6:3-4 harmonize? What principles guide your giving? How is charity investing with God? What is the relationship of income level with the responsibility to give? What is the relationship between material giving and spiritual blessing? Explain. How do you tell the difference between a need and a want? How do you determine what you will give? How does charity fit into your budget? How do you handle spontaneous giving to meet immediate needs? What should be your attitude when you give?

Sermon Notes: The Proper Motives and Practices of Giving

July 13, 2014 – Matthew 6:2-4


People would like others to think __________ of them – and charity is one way produce that

What does God _____________ about the motives and methods people use for charitable giving?


Theme of the Sermon on the Mount ___________________________________________________

The Beatitudes: __________________________________________________

Correcting the teaching of the Scribes _________________________________________________

Giving Alms – Matthew 6:2-4

It is assumed that alms will be given as a ________________ part of life for a godly Jew

Giving alms (ejlehmosu;nh / ele mosun ) is simply any act of ______________ or pity

Old Testament Commands: Deuteronomy 15:7-11; _________________________________________________

Leviticus 25:35_____________________________________

New Testament Commands & Examples: John 13:29; _________________________________________________

Matthew 5:42; 1 John 3:17______________________________________________

A Christian is to be marked by generous _________________ to the poor

Wrong Motives and Practice – Matthew 6:2

Tobit 12:8 & Wisdom of Sirach 3:30 both teach that ________________ can expiate / atone for sin

Pope Leo the Great (440-461) declared that “by alms we _______________ our sins”

They blew a trumpet in order to get people to pay _______________ to when they gave alms

They did this in public because they wanted the __________________of men – Luke 16:13-15; John 12:43

God rejects empty religious observances – including giving for selfish reasons – Isaiah 1:10-15

Righteous Motives and Practices – Matthew 6:3-4

Giving should be so _________________that the left hand is not involved in what the right hand is doing

Matthew 5:16 and 6:3-4 do not contradict – both passages are speaking to the issue of ________________

The motive must be to seek ______________ glory and not your own

Principles to Practice

1) Giving from the heart is investing with _____________ – Luke 6:38; 2 Corinthians 9:6

2) Genuine giving is to be ________________ – Mark 12:41-44; 2 Samuel 24:24

3) The _________________ to give and income level is not related – Luke 16:10

4) Material giving correlates with ________________ blessing – Luke 16:11; Matthew 6:21

5) We are to give to meet ____________, not wants – 2 Thessalonians 3:10

6) Giving is to be _______________determined – 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

A _________________ to “tithe” contradicts 2 Corinthians 9:7

A required amount or percentage ____________ giving

Giving includes supporting _________church expenses and meeting personal needs

Giving should be ___________ as part of your budget to spend based on priorities (Proverbs 3:9-10)

___________________ giving meets personal needs at the sacrifice of other budget areas – 1 John 3:17

Ephesians 4:28 – we ____________ so that we will have something to share with the one who has need


Give to glorify God – consider the needs of those around you and how God can work His will ___________

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