“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” (Matthew 5:17)
In this series, we are looking at how Jesus redefined different laws, ideas, and notions by expanding their meanings and, thus, our understanding of the Scriptures.
Jesus once again gets to the heart of the matter: redefining what it means to perform a good deed.
“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4)
We see this today: people doing good deeds and announcing it publicly for all the world to see; this will sometimes fall into the category of a “humble brag.” If you do good deeds for the attention and admiration of others, Jesus calls that being a hypocrite. If our main reason for doing a good deed is to be noticed, then the attention we receive is all the reward we will get. But if we do it without seeking attention, if we give gifts in private, then God will reward us. Once again, it’s a heart issue: Why are you giving to this person? Why are you performing this good deed? Is it for the attention of others or is it in obedience of the greatest commandment, which is to love your neighbor as you love yourself? God knows the heart behind our giving and if we are pure in heart God will reward us.
I often think of the phrase that Jesus used, “don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” as “give it away before you think about it too much.” Sometimes we can reason ourselves out of doing a good thing with pure motives. We want to help, we want to give, we want to walk across the street and just start raking the leaves or shoveling the snow or mowing the grass, but then we think about it too much. What if I need that money later? What if I offend my neighbor or hurt them unintentionally by doing this good deed for them? Won’t it be weird to work on someone else’s property? We let fear and doubt creep in and take over our spirit of giving and performing good deeds the way Jesus taught us. Can you imagine what our world would look like if Christians just performed good deeds without over-thinking them? What if we went out and did the work of cleaning up someone’s yard or the public park down the street without waiting for a “service day” with church? What if we went out and met with people and talked with them on our own instead of waiting for an official prayer-walk day? What if we volunteered without taking the T-shirt that declares that we volunteered?
Jesus’ teachings get at the heart of the matter, and when it comes to good deeds we should never do them for the attention and admiration of this world. We should do them in faithful obedience to God, loving Him with all our heart, mind, and soul, and loving our neighbors as ourselves.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.