Verse of the Day Devotion. Matthew 6:1
“Take care not to practice your righteousness in the sight of people, to be noticed by them; otherwise, you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:1
When we look at this verse, we see something interesting. First, this verse serves as an introduction for the first eighteen verses of chapter six. Also, Jesus is not speaking of any specific act of righteousness but is referring to any righteous act which we may do. This implies Jesus is giving them a general exhortation regarding any righteous acts we would do. Also, it is clear He is not saying that there are times when doing a righteous act should not be done. On the contrary, we are all called to be doers of righteousness. What He is bringing up here in our focus verse is the motive behind our acts of righteousness.
Every good work we do must be done as an act of love. Paul writes the following to the Church in Ephesus regarding good works. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10. We are to lead a holy life, doing good works for the glory of God. And the reason we should do these works is our love for God and our fellow man. “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. All that you do must be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14. Now, putting these couple of verses together, we see that when we accepted Christ, through Him we are created to do good works out of our love for others.
So, let us look closely at this verse. Jesus is telling His disciples to be careful not do good works for the express purpose of showing off to others, to be noticed by them. He does not condemn the righteous acts themselves, but His concern was focused on why we are doing it. Theologian Stuart Weber in his commentary on Matthew says, “Jesus was not condemning the righteous acts themselves. Genuineness was his focus, not the acts themselves. His concern was the motivation behind the actions. The same act of obedience can be right or wrong, depending on why a person does the act.”
In the following three verses, He uses the deed of giving to the poor as an example. “So, when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, so that they will be praised by people. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” Matthew 6:2. Jesus shows here God’s righteous standard is doing things in love for another, not doing things to lift ourselves up. Jesus addressed the danger of cultivating an image of righteousness. Notice His words here. “Do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, so that they will be praised by people.” Jesus here was referring to the Jewish leadership who did good works to show people they were better than them. If anyone does this, their reward is simply what they receive from people.
Then He tells them how we are to do good works. “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your charitable giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:3-4. Our purpose in doing good works should be in pleasing God and helping others, not ourselves. He uses a proverbial saying ‘do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” We are to keep the thing so secret that even we ourselves are hardly aware of anything at all praiseworthy. Let God be pleased and let this be our goal.
Whenever we are doing anything, it is important to do it to please God and out of love for others. We must never do it to lift ourselves up, so we are looked upon highly. This is in giving to the poor as laid out here, but also in teaching the scriptures, preaching to the church, praying for others, and in encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ. It must be in everything we do, no matter how masterful or menial the task is. And we must also remember it is God who works through us. “For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” 1 Corinthians 15:9-10.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.