How often do we offer our time, talents, and treasure to others anticipating an exchange? We give to get praise. But this is not true generosity; it is a selfish exchange, a sham, and reveals a desire for self-glorification. With giving, as in the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presses past outward behavior to the heart, the desires that lie beneath our behavior. God does not simply call us to forsake selfish desires and behaviors: He calls us to something better; He calls us to Himself; He calls our hearts to reflect His heart.
So, how and why should we give? Jesus sheds light on the answer to this question by setting up the hypocrites as counterexamples. The hypocrites give publicly “that they may be praised by others.” In other words, the hypocrites give to get. When we seek the praise of man, we absorb, rather than reflect, the glory of God.
But, brothers and sisters, this is not the way we learned Christ! We are children of the light, children of Him in whom there is no darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:5; 1 John 1:5). As children of the light and image bearers of God, we are not called to absorb but to behold and reflect His light (2 Corinthians 3:18). We give to others to reflect the giver of all good gifts, not only in what we do but in how and why we do it (James 1:17). We are called to reflect God’s heart.
So then, how are we to give? Jesus says we are to give “in secret,” without seeking or expecting the praise of man. This secrecy is not the secrecy of deceit, but the secrecy of solitude and communion with God, the secrecy of the silent place in which God speaks to the Psalmist’s “secret heart” (Psalm 51:6).
Finally, why do we give? God gives graciously out of His abundant love and mercy: “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). God gives because of who He is, and we, likewise, give because of who He is. As children of the light, we give to reflect the Light of the World.
The reward of man’s praise is empty and fleeting, but we seek a greater reward: communion with the living God. Communion with Him is both our present and eternal reward. May we all behold and delight in the glorious splendor of His majesty and may the Psalmist’s words ring true for each of us: “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the rock of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26).