Take heed that you do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise you have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
The matter of the discourse of our Lord proceeds from his illustration of the hitherto unpractised and unnoticed spiritual significance, depth, and far-reachingness of the Law, to admonitions which must ever be so sure to be needed - of simplicity of motive and purity of heart in our works of "righteousness," or, as perhaps we should more naturally describe them in modern phrase, of religion. It must be noted that the Received Version reads mistakenly, in ver. 1, "alms" instead of "righteousness." This last word, recalling our thought to ver. 20, easily keeps for us unbroken the thread of Christ's discourse. The more specific of these admonitions as to our religious actions are three in number, and concern the duty of giving alms (vers. 1-4), of praying (vers. 5-15), and of lasting (vers. 16-18). Notice -
I. THAT THE PRINCIPLE CONTAINED IN THE INJUNCTION CHRIST HERE UTTERS IS NOT THAT HIS DISCIPLES SHOULD ARTIFICIALLY AND UNNATURALLY SMOTHER AND COVER UP IN DARKNESS EVERY ACT OF CHARITY.
1. This would be to the derogation of a previous and important injunction of this very discourse, that they should "so let their light shine before men that," as a consequence, "they might see their good works, and glorify their Father in heaven."
2. The present injunction is explicitly worded to the effect that such good works as almsgiving are not to be done for the purpose of being seen of men, and thereby winning a most superficial glory of them.
II. THE INJUNCTION IS THAT THE WORKS OF CHARITY SHOULD TRAVEL SO DIRECT FROM THE HEART TO THE OBJECT OF THEM THAT THEY SHOULD IN NO WISE CONTEMPLATE ANY OUTER OBSERVATION, AND SHOULD, SO FAR FROM THIS, EVEN ELUDE THAT OF THE LEFT HAND WHEN DONE BY THE RIGHT HAND.
III. THAT ANYTHING SHORT OF THIS, ANY ADMIXTURE OF SECRET, UNSAFE, UNHEALTHY, CRAVING FOR HUMAN NOTICE AND PRAISE, IS OF A DISENABLING SORT, AND PRECLUDES THE CONTINUAL DEW OF THE DIVINE APPROVAL AND REWARD.
IV. THAT NEVERTHELESS OUR WORKS OF CHARITY ARE FREE AND OPEN - NAY, RATHER, ARE EVEN TO BE ENCOURAGED TO SUBMIT THEMSELVES - TO THE INSPECTION OF THE ONE CLEAR, CALM, UNERRING, AND UNHARMING GAZE OF THE DIVINE EYE, AND THERE HAVE THEIR REWARD. - B.
Parallel VersesKJV: Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.