10-16-2017

Matthew 6:3–4 – Give In Secret

In the Church, we tend to take giving in secret pretty seriously. As we should. Jesus talks about it in today’s verse, after all. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:3-4 ESV

Now, let’s dig into Jesus’ teaching here.

First, an important rule for interpreting the Bible comes front and center. It’s understanding the marriage of two verb moods: the indicative and the imperative.

Indicative verbs reveal a certainty or truth. For example: It is dark outside as I write this.

Imperative verbs give a command. For example: Light a candle because it’s dark and I can’t see what I’m writing.

This is important to understand when it comes to following biblical commands. In Matthew 6 Jesus teaches about giving, praying, and fasting in secret. They are imperative commands, telling his hearers to “do it like this.”

The Heart Able To Give In Secret

But these commands rest in a key truth: The people who are to give, pray, and fast in secret are the ones who have been doing these things to get street cred and praise from people. They’re the ones who’ve been waltzing around, making a big to-do about how spiritual and generous they are. Jesus isn’t primarily saying everyone should give in secret and never talk about their generosity. After all, sometimes people are inspired by cheerful givers to be more generous. (Read 1 Chronicles 29 for a prime example of this in the life of David.) Instead, Jesus is exposing the heart that’s powering the kind of giving, praying, and fasting he’s talking about in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus’s point isn’t that no one but the Father should know about your generosity and spiritual practices. Instead, you need to watch out if your motive for sharing these things is for applause. And if that’s you, it’s your heart’s only reward. To give in secret means to seek to honor God alone. In this way, our giving does not become a spiritual lever we can pull to draw attention to ourselves. Does your heart crave recognition and praise for your giving? Or are you able to give in secret with a heart seeking to honor God?

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