Take Heed That Ye Do Not Your Alms Before Men
In Matthew chapter 6 our Lord taught concerning the inner religion of the heart; a step by step transformation through the grace of God, by faith in Jesus Christ: the process of purification and justification of the soul to a fully matured stature in Jesus Christ our Lord. Yes, fully and completely free from the power of sin so far that there is now no condemnation in him, as Paul puts it in Romans 8:1, “There is now therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh.”
So then, if we still have one impure habit which serves only to gratify the lust of the flesh, then we have no right to claim this promise. This carnal flesh must be mortified, as Paul wrote in Galatians 5:24: “And they that are Christ's, have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences.” He did not say they “shall,” but they “have” crucified it. Here we shall pause a bit and examine ourselves to see if we have in reality crucified our flesh. Not only half or three-fourths, but all of it. For the whole body to be sanctified unto the Lord, is to be completely inside the ark, not only half-way. God locked the door and the weakest woman was just as safe as Noah himself.
It was not by Noah's self-righteousness or strength, neither by his knowledge or intelligence: it was the Lord God who saved him with the ark,
but he needed to obey the instructions of God and enter in with his family.
The Lord gives us instructions in Matthew the sixth chapter how our deeds may be made holy, righteous, and acceptable to God, by following unselfish motives of love. He begins with alms because these are deeds of love and mercy. Luke also recorded this part of the Sermon on the Mount, and closes with the word “merciful,” where Matthew uses the word perfect.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” (Matthew 6:1-2). In these two verses our Lord tells us how we should not do. Although only alms is mentioned here, it nevertheless includes all other deeds of love and mercy. All our actions, words and deeds which are helpful to the body and soul of our fellow man, such as food, clothing, shelter, etc., have a generous reward if they are given in the proper Christian spirit of love and mercy (Matthew 25:34-36). On the other hand, if this is not done, then the reward will be dreadful and damnable (v. 43); and if it is done merely to be honored of men, then there is no more reward than in giving alms to be seen of men. Saint Paul is definite on this point in I Corinthians 13, that all good works, even speaking with tongues of men and angels; prophesying; performing great miracles by faith; giving all our possessions to the poor; if it is not in love we gain nothing by it, and have no promise of reward. When we contribute to the poor we must not do like the hypocrites. It is said that in the time of Christ, it was the custom of the Jews, especially among the wealthier Pharisees who at times gave a handout to the poor, to blow trumpets for the purpose of calling the poor together for the occasion; so they claimed, but the real object was nore to let the public know what they were doing.
Giving alms is a Christian duty.
All that we possess, whether the value is large or small, is a gift of God, so we are only appointed as guardians over it, and if we are able to give to the needy we deserve no honor. This belongs to God who has blessed us and enabled us to share our goods with those who are less fortunate than we. Our Lord now tells us how we may give our alms with God's approval: “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:3-4). Let not your left hand know what your right hand is doing. This is a rather proverbial expression and denotes giving as secretly as possible to escape the praise of men, for you have only done your duty and in yourself are still an unworthy servant. But our Father in heaven who observes the secrets of your heart, will reward you openly in this life, and also in a joyful eternity. “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (I Timothy 4:8).
Luke records these words of Jesus thus: “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38). Also Solomon says: “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” (Proverbs 19:17). Saint Paul wrote: “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” (II Corinthians 9:6).