Matthew 6:2: “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.”
I don’t think they’re referring to an actual trumpet here, although that certainly could have happened. But it seems like Jesus is just using this as an expression, and it’s a pretty good one! If you’ve had a trumpet player in the family, your entire family might hate the sound of the trumpet. That was certainly true for me growing up. I played the trumpet, and still do; I love it. But, growing up, my brother and sister hated the trumpet. Why? Because it was LOUD, and I practiced anywhere from 1-4 hours every single day.
But Jesus doesn’t bring up the trumpet just because it was loud; he brings it up because it was used to announce things! For the Pharisees, they had turned giving alms, or giving to the needy, into an announcement and a show! “Look at me! I am now giving money to the needy. Look how generous I am!”
Why were they announcing it so dramatically? We see it right there in verse 2, “to be praised by others.” That’s why they were giving in the first place and why they did it in very public places, and that’s also why they didn’t receive a reward from the Father. Why? Because they had received their reward, which was man’s praise! That’s what they wanted anyway. But we, as followers of Christ, are NOT to be like the Pharisees.
Instead, what are we to do? He says it right there in verse 3: “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.”
Give, then Forget
This is where my summary of Jesus’ words come in: We give, then forget. Not only are we NOT to give for recognition or to impress people, but in a very real sense, we’re not even to overly recognize ourselves! That’s what he means by “don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Give, then move on!
Don’t walk around with a different kind of strut all day, thinking about how good you are for giving to the needy. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t find joy in giving, we should! It’s better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). But, do you do it just because you want to be recognized or maybe because you want to feel good about yourself? Or do you give out of the overflow of a heart captivated by the Gospel? Giving is wonderful thing, a beautiful thing. But we give because Christ gave us infinitely more, not because it adds to our ego.
This adjusted excerpt is from a message preached on August 14th, 2016 at Raintree Community Church. Audio to this message can be found by clicking HERE.