Sermon on the Mount

Giving to the Needy

This devotional is written by Florence Gildea

Matthew 6:1-4

6 "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.
2 "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. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.


It’s never been easier to virtue signal. You don’t have to set up a charitable foundation or establish a hospital wing in your name to have your philanthropy publicly recognised: online, you can share a petition you signed or avoid clicking anonymous when you donate to your friend’s fundraiser, and loads of awareness raising campaigns play into our love of selfies by asking us to take one which promotes their message. Pics or it didn’t happen, right?

Not quite, Jesus reminds us here: if God exists and is ever-present and concerned with us, He is fully aware of our actions - we don’t need to attract His attention. The only reason for a show and a dance about them would be if we were primarily interested in other people’s opinion of us. If that’s the case, your ‘reward’ might be a more impressive reputation, but you won’t have extended the Kingdom of God any further.

Jesus is asking us to check our motives and how pride can creep into them. But I think he is also speaking to those of us who are bothered about impression-management because our insecurities tell us we are unlovable. In trying to communicate something about ourselves to others, we are seeking to justify ourselves. The reality is we are already justified, already loved, noticed and accepted - not by our charity but by Jesus’ death on the cross.

Charity is a crucial part of the Christian life not because it earns us something from God, but because people who know they are completely loved, are free to pour themselves out in love for others - just as Jesus did. Those who act with an audience in mind, by contrast, act from a place of emptiness.

You have nothing to prove or earn, but so, so much to give.

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