1 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.
charitable deeds (v.1) — from a word closely aligned with the word “merciful”
trumpet (v.4) — This is a picture of the popular method of the hour in which Jesus lived. It is an actual piece of portraiture. Some Pharisee, intending to distribute gifts, would come to a conspicuous place in the city, and blow a small silver trumpet, at which there would gather round him the maimed, the halt, the blind. Then, with a great show of generosity, he would scatter gifts upon them. — Morgan, page 60.
Christ had previously pronounced blessing on the merciful (Matthew 5:7). The giving of alms was designed to be a display of mercy. The need represented an opportunity; it made it possible for the giver to demonstrate the love of God by meeting the need. The Pharisees had perverted the showing of mercy by using it to demonstrate their piety. They tried to impress men with their liberality. This was so prevalent that beggars sought to station themselves at the approaches to the temple so that they might receive alms from the Pharisees as they entered.
Almsgiving was part of the service in the synagogue, and there we may believe that our Lord gave what He could out of His slender means. There is a veiled irony in the declaration “They have received their reward,” and this adds to its impressive severity. “They receive their pay then and there, and they receive it in full … God owes them nothing. They were not giving, but buying. They wanted the praise of men, they paid for it, and they have got it. The transaction is ended and they can claim nothing more. — Pentecost, page 182.
Of course, under grace, we don’t give in order to receive a reward from men or from God. We give in response to who we are and what we have in Christ. But the principle of serving quietly and without show remains the same.