This paragraph near the end of Jesus’ State of the Union address is a bit tricky. Fund raising is a very real part of our culture. Radio programs seem to have a week twice a year when they ask people to pledge and offer incentives and rewards. The rich offer to match donations to a certain limit. Mugs with logos might be given for gifts of a certain amount. Likewise we have plagues on walls in hospitals and colleges acknowledging the big donors. Politics offer tax breaks if we give money for campaigns or parties. We want to be seen as kind and sharing of our wealth. Helping those less fortunate than our self is a deep value for many. So understanding the next section is challenging.
“6 ‘Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 ‘So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.(Matthew 6:1-4)”
I would suggest that the problem is not the publicity of our gifts but the motives of our hearts. If we give to get…praise, prizes, popularity or whatever then we are living in that “tit for tat” world Jesus has been talking about. Giving money to get praise and love is the flip side of the coin of giving revenge to get even for wrongs suffered. That coin is temporary satisfaction whether it is money or hate. Good deeds done in secret are seen by God who sees our secrets.
So perhaps we have secrets in our heart that we think no one sees. Our public persona, our face the world sees, may be covering secret scars, secret desires, and secret generosity. We may think no one notices us but God sees, the good and the ugly. And God rewards. That is a promise that is worth remembering as we enter 2023! Blessings on your secret life!