Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
(a) Beware of the temptation to draw attention to yourself, for this is the way of the flesh. The flesh craves recognition. “Look at me. Look at how good I am.” Self-righteousness is the deadliest sin for it inflates our pride and draws us away from the grace of God.
Practicing your righteousness. The religious Jews who lived under the old covenant were moral people who made a habit of giving to the poor, praying, and fasting (Matt. 6:2, 6, 16). These were good deeds done by good people, but ultimately it was their own righteousness they were cultivating.
In the new covenant, we are clothed with the righteousness that comes from God and is received by faith (Rom. 1:17, 3:22). It is our Father’s righteousness that makes us righteous and inspires us to do righteous deeds.
(c) Reward. Under the old covenant you were blessed if you did good and cursed if you didn’t. It was a carrot and stick arrangement where good deeds were done in the expectation of being rewarded or blessed by God.
(d) No reward with your Father. If you are self-righteous (you do good deeds to make yourself look good to others), don’t expect anything from God. You already have your reward (see next verse).
It is a mistake to upend this verse and conclude that God blesses us in accordance with our good deeds. “Do good, get good.” All the blessings of God are freely available to us on account of grace (Eph. 1:3). However, there are rewards given in accordance with our labor (see entry for 1 Cor. 3:14).
(e) Your Father; see entry for Matt. 5:16.
“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.
The self-righteous man justifies himself by trusting in his performance and by drawing attention to his good deeds. “I fast twice a week and give a tithe of all I get” (Luke 18:12). See entry for Self-righteousness.
“But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
Don’t trumpet your acts of charity in public but give quietly and without fuss.
so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
(a) Your Father; see entry for Matt. 5:16.
(b) What is done in secret is done with no thought for self-recognition.
Jesus is contrasting two ways to live. We can live for ourselves always seeking to advance ourselves through self-reliance and self-promotion, or we can humbly submit to God, trusting in his care.
(c) Will reward you. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Jas. 4:6).
The Jews who heard Jesus utter these words expected to be blessed for their acts of charity, but in the new covenant we are blessed on account of his goodness, not ours (Eph. 1:3). All the blessings of heaven come by grace alone. So why give and do good works? Because those who have been apprehended by the grace of God become grace-givers themselves. They give and pray so that others might experience the blessing of God.