The Ministry of Giving


Dr. John Hoole – January 15, 2017




In our current study series on the Sermon on the Mount, we are in Matthew 6.  Jesus is speaking and He mentioned three examples of “Acts of Righteousness.”  (Almsgiving, Prayer and Fasting.)  He begins the chapter giving a warning that we should not do acts of righteousness for the applause of men and women.  Our good works are to be done to give praise to God.


Today we are going to take of a look at the first example mentioned in chapter 6.


Matthew 6:1 NKJV


1       Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.


The King James renders it, ALMS.  The New American Standard translation renders it, “giving to the poor.”  The English Standard Version renders it, “giving to the needy.”  The New English Translation has it, “charitable giving.”


When we, as Christians, asked Jesus to be the Lord of our life, we meant that He was to be Lord of every aspect of our life.  That includes the business, spiritual and family life.  And this includes money matters.


Let me relay a story of a first-century Hebrew.  He is walking alone on a hot afternoon, with his staff in his hand.  His shoulders are slightly stoop, sandals covered with dirt, his tunic stained with sweat.  But he doesn’t stop to rest.  He has pressing business in the city. He veers off the road into a field, seeking a shortcut.  The owner won’t mind – travelers are permitted this courtesy.  The field is uneven.  To keep his balance, he thrusts his staff firmly into the dirt.


Thunk!  The staff hits something hard.  He stops, wipes his brow, and pokes again with his staff.  Thunk!  Something is under there, and it is not a rock.  The weary traveler tells himself that he cannot afford to linger.  But his curiosity won’t let him go.  He jabs at the ground.  Something reflects a sliver of sunlight.  He drops to his knees and starts digging.


Five minutes later, he has uncovered it – a case fringed in gold.,  By the looks of it, it has been there for decades.  With his heart now racing, he pries off the rusty lock and opens the lid.  Gold coins!  Jewelry!  Precious stones of every color!  A treasure more valuable than anything he has ever imagined.


Hands shaking, the traveler inspects the coins, issued in Rome over seventy years ago.  Some wealthy man must have buried the case and died suddenly, the secret of the treasure’s location dying with him.  There is no homestead nearby.  Surely the current landowner has no clue that the treasure is here.


The traveler closes the lid, buries the chest, and marks the spot.  He turns around, heading home – only now he is not plodding.  He is skipping like a little boy, smiling broadly.


What a find!  Unbelievable!  I’ve got to have that treasure!  But I can’t just take it – that would be stealing.  Whoever owns the field owns what is in it.  But how can I afford to buy it?  I will sell my farm … and crops, … all my tools … my prize oxen.  Yes, if I sell everything, that should be enough.


From the moment of his discovery, the traveler’s life changes.  The treasure captures his imagination, becomes the stuff of his dreams.  It is his reference point, his new center of gravity.  The traveler takes every new step with that treasure in mind.  He is experiencing a radical paradigm shift.


All I have said about this traveler up to this point, is captured in one single verse of Scripture.


Matthew 13:44 NIV


44     The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.


This parable of the hidden treasure is one of many references Jesus made to money and possessions.  In fact, 15% of everything Christ said relates to this topic.  He says more about money than He does on heaven and hell combined.


Why did Jesus put so much emphasis on money and possessions?  It is because there is a fundamental connection between our spiritual lives and how we think about and handle money.


In Luke, chapter 3, we find John the Baptist in the region of the Jordan River.


Luke 3:3-7 NIV


3       He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

4       As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.

5       Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.

6       And all mankind will see God's salvation.'" 

7       John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?


Beginning in verse 10, three groups of people ask John the Baptist a question.  The question of the general people is found in verse 10.  The Tax collectors asked their question in verse 12.  And the Soldiers ask their question in verse 14.


All three of these groups ask John what they must do to bear the fruit of repentance.  Here are John’s three answers:


         1.  Everyone should share clothes and food with the poor (verse 11)


         2.  Tax collectors should not pocket extra money (verse 13).


         3.  Soldiers should be content with their wages and not extort money (verse 14).


Each group asked what we may call a spiritual question.  But the three answers given by John relates to money and possessions.  So, why didn’t John talk about other things?  It is because our approach to money and possessions isn’t just important, it is central to our spiritual lives.  It is of such high priority to God that John the Baptist could not talk about spirituality without talking about how to handle money and possessions.


If you look for this correlation, you will find other passages as well.  Take what Zacchaeus said to Jesus, “Look, Lord!  Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (Luke 19


Jesus responded, in Luke 19:9-10:


9       And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham;

10     for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."


The new approach Zacchaeus had to money proved that his heart had been transformed.


In stark contrast to this, Luke 12 tells us about as rich man who spent all his wealth on himself.  He planned to tear down his barns and build larger ones, storing up for himself so he could retire early and take life easy.  But God called the man a fool, saying:  “This very night your life will be demanded from you.  Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself. (Luke 12:20).  The greatest indictment against him – and the proof of his spiritual condition, is that he was rich toward himself, but not rich toward God.


On another occasion, when a rich man approached Jesus, asking about how to gain eternal life, Jesus responds in Matthew 19:21:


Matthew 19:21 NKJV


21     Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."


This man, obsesses with earthly treasures, is asked by Jesus to higher, heavenly treasures.  Jesus knew that money and possessions were this man’s god.  He realized that the man would not serve God unless he dethroned his money idol.  Unfortunately, the seeking man thought the price too great.  He walked away from real treasures.


What about us?  How tight do we hold onto our money and assets?  What would you or I do if asked by God to sell all that we have?  We cannot escape answering these questions.  As soon as we finish the three acts of righteousness in the first 18 verses of chapter 6, we are immediately face to face with it again in verse 19.


Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV


19     Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;

20     but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

21     For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


These verses will address the issue of how to set proper priorities.  It will open wide the light of God on what is really important to us.  And as we approach the end of chapter six, we will be faced with Verse 33, which reads:  “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.,”


Now Let’s read the first four verses of chapter 6.


Matthew 6:1-4 NKJV


1       Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

2       Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.

3       But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

4       that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. 


Let’s look at a few nuggets we can see on the top, and examine what they tell us.  Jesus does not introduce this topic with an “IF,” but with the word, “WHEN.”  Our Lord expects his followers to be charitable.  And when He speaks specifically of alms or charitable giving, He is not talking about good intentions or warm feeling, but actual giving.


The next item I want to quickly examine is the Greek and Hebrew words for alms-giving and charitable deed.  The Greek word translated by “charitable deed” or “alms,” is EleemosuneEleemon is translated MERCIFUL.  That comes from Eleos, which is translated as MERCY, KINDNESS, COMPASSION.  We have and English word that comes from this – Eleemosynary.  It’s a synonym for “charitable.”


It is in the Hebrew language where we will see the importance the Jews place on charitable giving.  Let’s read Matthew 6:2 from the “Complete Jewish Bible” translation.


Matthew 6:2 CJB


2       So, when you do tzedakah, don’t announce it with trumpets to win people’s praise, like the hypocrites in the synagogues and on the streets. Yes! I tell you, they have their reward already!


To the Jew, almsgiving was the most sacred of all religious duties.  Tzedakah is used 157 times in the Old Testament.  I show you on the screen a website for a Jewish Synagogue – Temple Beit Elohim.  This is a page of their web site that addresses the topic of  Tzedakah.


In the first line, we read: To Jews today, the term “tzedakah” connotes giving charitable contributions.”  How sacred the act of almsgiving was can be seen in the fact that the same word is used for both almsgiving and righteousness.  To give alms and to be righteous were one and the same thing.  To the Jew, giving alms was a means to gain merit in the sight of God.


Dr. George O. Wood writes that there are three attitudes people can have about money and treasures. And all three can be seen in the parable found in Luke 10 – The Good Samaritan.


                   1.  The robber: What’s yours is mine if I can get it.


                   2.  The priest and Levite:  What’s mine is mine and you can’t have it.


                   3.  The Samaritan: What’s mine is yours if you need it.


Only the last one is dealt with in Matthew 6.  Giving is our opportunity to invest in God’s work for the benefit of people.  God never intended our income to meet only our own needs.


Throughout both Testaments we are taught to give to the work of the Lord and to others.  Even the poor were to give to the work of the Lord.  The poor are commended for giving, such as the destitute widow who gave all she had (Luke 12:25-37)         And in 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, the Macedonians saints gave out of their own poverty.


When the Israelites were at Mount Sinai, God gave Moses a commandment to share with the people.  God instituted a “Temple Tax” that all had to pay equally, whether poor or rich.  The first tax was paid as Moses took a census.




Exodus 30:13-15 NKJV


13     This is what everyone among those who are numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (a shekel is twenty gerahs). The half-shekel shall be an offering to the Lord.

14     Everyone included among those who are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering to the Lord.

15     The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when you give an offering to the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves.


God has much to say about the proper use of money and treasures, and it is said to both the rich and the poor.  And one part of this God emphasizes often in both the Old and New Testaments is that He expects us to give to the poor and unfortunate.


God has always delighted in acts of mercy and generosity.  When the Israelites freed a slave they were told, “You shall not send him away empty-handed.  You shall furnish him liberally from your flock and from your threshing floor and from your wine vat, you shall give to him as the Lord your God has blessed you.” (Deuteronomy 15:13-14).  God’s people were continually reminded in the Psalms, Proverbs, and prophetic writings to be considerate of and generous to the poor, whether fellow Israelites or Gentile strangers.


Jesus and the disciples had their own money bag from which they gave offerings to the poor (John 13:29).  The scribes and the Pharisees gave only to bring honor to themselves, not to serve others or serve God.


Unfortunately, there have been some leaders in church history that advocated doing what the Pharisees did.  The same mechanistic and unbiblical principle is seen in traditional Roman Catholic dogma.        Pope Leo the Great [was Pope from 440 to 461] declared, “By prayer we seek to appease God, by fasting we extinguish the lust of the flesh, and by alms we redeem our sins.”


But just as a sympathetic feeling for someone in need does not help them unless something si given to meet their need, giving them money provides no spiritual benefit or blessing to the giver, unless it is given from the heart.  In any case, no act of charity or any other good work can atone for sins.


The most satisfying giving, and the giving that God blesses, is that which is done and forgotten.  It is done in love out of response to a need, and when the need is met the giver goes on about his business.  There is no waiting for or wanting recognition.  Whether the people we help are grateful or ungrateful should not matter as far as our own purpose is concerned.  If they are ungrateful, we are sorry for their sake, not our own.




In every area of righteousness, the key is the heart.  It is in the inner attitude that motivates what we say and do.  Public righteousness is not to be rejected, but it is to be done in the spirit of humility, love and sincerity.


Ephesians 2:10 NKJV


10     For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.


Also, in every area of righteousness, Jesus Himself is our supreme and perfect example.  He preached His messages in public.  He performed His miracles of healing, compassion, and power over nature in public.  Yet He continually focused attention of His heavenly Father, whose will alone He came to do (John 5:30).  Even though He was one with the Father, while He lived on earth, Jesus did not seek His own glory but that of His Father (John 8:49-50).


When we give our alms … in secret, lovingly, unpretentiously, and with no thought for recognition, our Father who sees in secret will repay us.  Our purpose should be to meet every need we are able to meet, and leave the bookkeeping to God.  God will not miss giving a single reward.


Hebrews 4:13 NKJV


13     And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.


The Lord knows our hearts, our attitudes, and our motives. The greatest reward a believer can have is the knowledge that he has pleased the Lord.  Our motive for looking forward to His rewards should be the anticipation of casting them as an offering at his feet.


Revelation 4:11 NKJV


11     You are worthy, O Lord,  To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created."