Therefore when you do your alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets…
There is no certain evidence of such a custom as our Lord here refers to. Rich men sometimes had a certain day on which they distributed their alms. Then they may have sent round with a trumpet to call the poor people together. "In some cities Saturday is beggars' day, and every merchant, shopkeeper, and housewife lays by a store of coppers and remnants of food." Probably our Lord only used a figure, such as we employ when we speak of the "flourish of trumpets" by the boastful man. The chests in the temple to receive alms were trumpet-shaped, and were called trumpets; and no doubt some almsgivers would fling their coins into these trumpets so as to make a ringing noise, and call public attention to their benevolence. The point our Lord presents is this: alms-giving, as a recognized religious duty, finds expression for character - and it cultures the character through finding it expression - but let us be very careful that our charity finds expression for Christian character.
I. NATURAL CHARACTER FINDING NATURAL EXPRESSION. There is such a thing as the "milk of human kindness." Some people are born with amiable, sympathetic, charitable dispositions. Doing kind things is simply natural to them. It costs no effort. It involves no self-denial. They give freely. They give so pleasantly that we do not realize how little the giving costs them. We may thank God for the "charitably disposed" among us, and accept thankfully their help toward the perfecting of the human brotherhood.
II. DETERIORATED CHARACTER FINDING REPRESENTATIVE EXPRESSION, This is the case which Christ presents as a warning. Guileful persons, with lowered characters, will make their charity serve their selfish ends. You will see, by the way in which the gilt is made, the publicity of it; the anxiety about a suitable report being made of it; the mean advantage taken of the recipient of it; and the continuous after-brag about it; that a very deteriorated character, with very low and poor motives ruling it, was at the back of the gift. If we accept the gift, we cannot approve the giver.
III. SANCTIFIED CHARACTER FINDING PIOUS EXPRESSION. Our Lord puts the pious expression into these forms. The disciple with the qualities indicated in the Beatitudes
(1) keeps his giving secret from other people;
(2) he even keeps it a secret from himself, and tries not to think about it (ver. 3); and
(3) he does his kindness for his heavenly Father's sake, and because he wants to be a worthy child of him who is continually doing good. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
WEB: Therefore when you do merciful deeds, don't sound a trumpet before yourself, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may get glory from men. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward.