Read Matthew 6:2-4
2 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. 3 But when you give to someone in need,don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4 Give your gifts in private,and your Father,who sees everything,will reward you. (NLT)
It is so easy to do the right thing for the wrong reason. Jesus is commenting on this as he describes how some did acts of charity in a way that got them public applause. The act of charity itself was helpful,but the motivation was all wrong.
When we do good in order to show off,we do get a reward of sorts. We get the applause and attention we crave. We get a reputation for generosity or compassion. But that is all we get. There is a deeper lack of genuine satisfaction: we know how twisted our motives are and how self-centred our good works might be. But more than that,we miss out on God’s own commendation. We fail to receive his encouragement and empowerment.
It is not essentially wrong to get recognition for our good deeds. Jesus elsewhere says that others are to observe them and thus come to honour God. It is our motivation that is the problem. Doing good in public is fine as long as we are not out for applause,as long as we are also prepared to do good when no one but God knows about it.
And more subtly,we don’t even announce to ourselves what good we are doing-our left hand is not to know what our right hand is doing. Patting ourselves on the back for not being hypocrites is itself an act of hypocrisy. When we do good,it is good to practise forgetfulness,it is good not to dwell on our good works.