You Decide Your Reward

So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
— Matthew 6:1-4

It is human nature to desire recognition—to be noticed or “seen” (NIV). Since we are made in God’s image, this deep need to be recognized is not merely selfish. It is part of the remnant of God inside us; it feels good to be noticed—especially by God Himself. Jesus does not criticize this desire for recognition nor are we told to expurgate desire from our souls.

But we want more. Our desire for recognition has been hijacked by our sinful nature—we also want to be noticed by man. And the rewards of being noticed by men become an aphrodisiac that controls our every action and thought—so desirous are we of an approving smile.

If you think wanting to be recognized is not true for you, then consider how you feel when your partner is credited for scoring the sale you worked for. Or when the church bulletin recognizes Sally for your “beautiful flower arrangement.”

Now, when you give, what is Jesus teaching?

ONE: Don’t give to impress others.

Don’t trumpet your generosity like the hypocrites do in the synagogues and the streets. Jesus does not say that those who trumpet their giving receive no reward. He said, “They have their reward in full.” And what is their reward? Perhaps a nodding glance of approval from the pastor, a raised eyebrow from a family member who sees us give to a beggar or a letter from the Charity President with kind words about your impressive gift. 

The reward is adulation from others but not from God. If we give to impress others we will be rewarded, but the reward will be short-lived—a momentary good feeling. Enjoy this reward for a few fleeting seconds because no other reward is coming. That’s it. You’re done.


TWO: Giving secretly is rewarded.

In Matthew 6, about prayer, fasting and giving, Jesus says three times, “Your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” God sees and God rewards. But only when we give (pray and fast) not to impress others, but in secret—for God’s eyes alone.

We have a choice—to be rewarded by men or to be rewarded by God.

The Father sees your giving! Then why do we need to blow trumpets for others to notice. Inordinately longing for recognition from others reveals what we are looking at. It shows how little we trust the Father.

Even when no one else sees your giving, your sacrifice, your putting others first, your Father notices. And rewards.

The word reward is misthos—pay for service, wages, hire. It is spoken eight times by Jesus in the nine verses of this section. It is also used famously in Hebrews 11:6 which says, “God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” God is not a silent despot who is too preoccupied to notice our service. He sees and He rewards.

Instead of asking others to give us feelings of value and appreciation, let us look to the Father who sees and rewards. What is this reward? Only those who give in secret know.


Prayer: Father in heaven, thank you for seeing all I do in sacrifice for others. I confess I often long to sound a trumpet to show people what a good giver I am. But I leave that aside. I am confident you see. I need no other reward than knowing You know. Amen.