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.
In this second part of the sermon our Lord teaches his disciples how they should stand related to the recognized and usual expressions of religious life. In those days everybody who professed to be religious sought to show people their religion by giving alms, praying, and fasting. But Jesus taught that character, motive, spirit, were the things of supreme importance; and so here he virtually says, "Take care of the motives that inspire religions acts. They win the praise of men, and you may be doing them for the sake of that praise." Our Lord did but state the universal fact when he said, "Ye have the poor always with you." War, limited trade, inefficiently treated disease, and bad governments, have always tended to make a large proportion of Eastern people indigent and beggars. In every religious system the duty of caring for them has been commended.
I. ALMSGIVING IN ITS SOCIETY FORM For, apart from all religious considerations, the sympathetic care of the poor is a society duty. And it should be seen that the poor among us have their mission to society, as truly as society has its mission to them. The poor bless us as well as receive a blessing from us.
1. They culture the hallowing sentiment of the "brotherhood of humanity," by calling for brotherly help.
2. They nurture the finer graces of human character; sympathy, gentleness, charity. It is the dark side of civilization that it has so changed our relation to the poor. Hospitality and personal service were the virtues of the simple East. Family isolation, and delegation of service, are the weaknesses of the guileful West. Modern society-relations seem to multiply the poor, so that they get beyond society-control. There are the poor
(1) by bodily disability;
(2) by unfortunate birth-associations;
(3) by exigencies of trade;
(4) by temporary distress;
(5) by the wrong-doing of others. Almsgiving is still a great society claim and duty.
II. ALMSGIVING IN ITS CHRISTIAN FORM. Then it is seen as service directly rendered to Christ. It is a part of the way in which we do his work in the world; and, in doing it, express our love to him. But the loyalty to Christ makes the Christian wholly indifferent to the opinion of men concerning his almsgiving. It leads him
(1) to estimate his means so that he may be able to give;
(2) to carefully consider the claims presented, so that he may give wisely;
(3) to strive to make his gifts a help to moral character, and a witness for his Lord; and
(4) to cherish a holy indifference to men's praise or blame. - R.T.
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.