Watch / Visual Commentaries / Matthew 6:1-4: Generosity and the True Reward

Matthew 6:1-4: Generosity and the True Reward

Watch a short video commentary on Matthew 6:1-4 that explains why Jesus warns his followers about doing the common religious practices of his day in public.

Visual Commentaries Jun 24, 2024


Jon: We’re looking at the collection of the teachings of Jesus called the Sermon on the Mount. In the main body of the sermon, Jesus invites his followers to live in right relationship with God and each other.

Tim: Jesus explores this by focusing on three common religious practices of his day. But first, he offers a warning so that we don't miss out on the true reward in these practices.

Jon: Be careful about your doing-what-is-right.1

Tim: That phrase, “doing-what-is-right,” is one word in Greek, dikaiosune. It’s traditionally translated “righteousness.” But in plain English, it means living in right relationship with God and others.

Jon: We all long to live in a world like that.

Tim: Yes. And one important way that Israelites expressed dikaiosune in the days of Jesus was through practices like generosity, prayer, and fasting.

Jon: Okay, these are great things. Why would Jesus warn us to be careful about how we do them?

Tim: Well, he goes on to explain.

Jon: “Don’t do it in front of people for the purpose of being seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in the skies.”2

Tim: So the great danger, Jesus says, is doing the right things but for the wrong reasons.

Jon: To be seen by people.

Tim: Right. He’s describing that subtle way our motives for doing good can be driven more by a desire for admiration and honor, and less by genuine love for others.

Jon: Okay. And if you’re after that cheap reward, you'll miss out on the true reward your Creator has in store.

Tim: Right. Because the real rewards are the right relationships you create with your neighbor and with God’s own self. And he warns that we can miss out on the true reward of these practices by doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

Jon: What would that look like?

Tim: Well, he gives three examples. Let’s look at the first one, the practice of generosity.

Jon: “So then, when you do acts of generous giving, don’t signal with a trumpet before you, like the hypocrites do in the gathering places and alleyways for the purpose of being honored by people. Truly, I tell you: they have fully received their reward.”3

Tim: This phrase, generous giving, it comes from the Greek word eleemosunay. It describes acts of generosity for those who need help.

Jon: You mean like charity?

Tim: Yeah. In the Bible, sharing resources is one of the fundamental ways that we can do right by others.4 But generosity can be done for the wrong reason, to get honor or praise from others.

Jon: Now, would someone really blow a trumpet in a crowded place to announce their generosity?

Tim: Yeah, not usually, but Jesus is painting a ridiculous picture to call out the many ways that people give resources and make sure that others can see just how generous they are.

Jon: And Jesus calls these people hypocrites.

Tim: Yes, that word is a transliteration from the Greek word “hupokrites.” It originally referred to a stage actor, someone who puts on a costume or a mask for public performance. If you’re being generous just to get honor, then, like an actor putting on a show, you will receive the honor you’re hoping for.

Jon: And Jesus calls that honor your full reward.

Tim: Yes. If it’s admiration and status that you're after, then congratulations! You’ll probably get it. But it could lead to losing out on the real reward that God has in store.

Jon: “But you, when you do acts of generous giving, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your generous giving is done in hiddenness. And your Father who sees what is done in hiddenness, he will fully reward you.”5

Tim: Instead of generosity as a performance, Jesus tells his followers to give in private, so private that you'll even grow unaware of how generous you've really become.

Jon: And in this hidden place, God will see it, and he will reward you.

Tim: Right. The ultimate reward is to be intimately connected to the heart of God and to share in his renewal of creation, where there is no room for ego or posturing. For Jesus, imitating God’s generosity from the heart is the way to become a truly flourishing human, and nobody should miss out on that.6

1. Matthew 6:1
2. Matthew 6:1
3. Matthew 6:2
4. See Leviticus 23:22; Deuteronomy 24:19-21; Ruth 2:4-17; Luke 10:25-37; Acts 2:44-46
5. Matthew 6:3-4
6. See Matthew 5:43-48
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