Read Matthew 6:1-4
1 “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.
2-4 “When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—‘playactors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out. (THE MESSAGE)
It is so easy to do the right thing for the wrong reason. Jesus is warning us against doing good things in order to get human commendation. Even if we get the human applause we prize, we will miss out on something deeper: the commendation of our God.
Jesus focusses here on giving money. We are not to make a big display of our generosity. It isn’t as if any public giving or public acknowledgement of our generosity is wrong. Nothing wrong with giving money and other people approving of it. The point is our motivation. If public approval is a consequence of our generosity, fair enough. But if public approval is why we give, then we have a problem.
Jesus perhaps is reminding us of a deeper issue. The traditional translations have him warning us against letting our left hand know what our right hand is doing. This means we ought not to even boast to ourselves about our private giving. We are not to avoid public applause only to applaud ourselves for doing so! We are not to look down our noses at those who show off their piety as if we are superior. This is another form of showing off!
Jesus wants us not only to do the right thing, but to do it for the right reason.