“Do not blow a trumpet before you”

When do you want your reward, now or in heaven? In Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18, Jesus tells us to give humbly and quietly.

“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms,
do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast,
anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

This was the reading for Ash Wednesday and it was so for obvious reasons. Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, when Catholics and many other Christians deny themselves something in memory of Christ’s sacrifice for us. This passage of the Gospel of Matthew is meant to remind us to deny ourselves without attracting attention to it because it should be meant as a gift to God, not as a gift to ourselves.

Of course, when Jesus said these things, there was no Ash Wednesday and no Lent, so this is a lesson was meant to be applied beyond Lent. If we do something for someone, if we do it for accolades, it isn’t really a gift for others, it’s gift for ourselves. What is a righteous deed but a gift to God? Thus, when you give alms, when you pray, when you fast, do it from your heart to God, not from your face for others to see. And by extension, when you do something for others – those close to you, those near to you, even those who don’t know you – don’t do it to receive credit, do it to benefit them and let your goodness be its own reward and your reward in heaven.

You may recall that Jesus often told others whom he had cured or served in other ways not to tell others about it. That didn’t stop those others from proclaiming His miracles to everyone who would listen, but it is clear that Jesus didn’t seek acclamation but to do good for others.

I know; it’s nice to be thanked and to receive credit for doing a good deed. It’s always great to receive awards or your name on a plaque or to be singled out for doing good. It’s even nice to get a tax refund for giving. But as Jesus tells us, as such, you have already received your reward. Do your good works silently, unseen, and your Father you sees what is hidden will reward you. What’s better in the long run, the cheer of the crowd or eternal life in heaven?

This Lent, if you give up something, when you abstain from meat and fast, do it with a normal countenance or with a cheery face. And all other times, when you give alms, pray, and fast, and when you do good for others, be humble and quiet about it. Let it be hidden. Do not blow a trumpet before you that God may reward you instead.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s