Remember, chapter divisions are not in the original text, but were added later on. Matthew 6 continues on Jesus' sermon that He began in chapter 5. The gravity of Jesus' words in the previous verse would have still been ringing in the ears of His listeners: "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Who in the world could achieve that? As we mentioned last week, only Christ can and only He has!
Even so, Christ calls us to walk in obedience to Him. Now, if we were really that righteous, we might want someone, perhaps everyone, to know about it! This is exactly the way the Pharisees thought. They thought that everyone needed to see how righteous they were (whether with good intentions or bad, but probably mostly bad). But Jesus gives His followers different motives to live by: "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."
Jesus continues in verse 2 by making very pointed statements at the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day: "Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward." The reward of hypocrites is the praise of man. Many of us still hunger for that same praise today. I confess, in my pride, I often find myself wanting accolades or praise. But as followers of Jesus, we are to fight those sinful desires. Rather, we are to have different desires, desires that only Christ can give as He changes our hearts.
Our "giving [must] be in secret." Firstly, Jesus' words assume that His followers will give to the needy. He says twice in this short passage the words, "when you give to the needy." Because of Christ's free generosity toward us, His followers ought to be marked as the most generous people in the world. Freely we have received, we should freely give!
Secondly, Jesus' words show us the reason why we are giving. Our motivation should never be some award, accolade, or recognition. Much of the "charity" we see in our world today is merely so that someone will praise us for being charitable. If we claim to know Christ, and yet recognition is the driving force for giving, we are slandering the name of Christ. And trust me, He sees. The last line of verse 4 makes that very clear: "And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
Rather than worldly motivation, our motivation to freely give to others is because of the fact that our Father sees! We show love to others, trusting that He sees us and will reward us! It is not a bad thing to desire heavenly rewards. Jesus talks about these in many places. If we are to be of the most good in this world, we must have our minds on the things above. May it be so for us, Machias Valley Baptist Church!