Giving to the Needy
6 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
You might ask why when Jesus has just told his followers to let their light shine before others by their good works, in Matthew 6 he says not to parade your righteousness before others. Why would he bracket these teachings next to each other?
First, he is pointing out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, the religious leaders. They loved to let their deeds be seen by others. They prayed in front of others, and wore sackcloth to show how "spiritual" they were. Their public displays of piety and rituals were motivated by being seen by others, rather than giving glory to God. As Jesus frequently has made clear in this Sermon, God is more concerned with our internal motivation than our prideful shows of our religiosity.
Second, Jesus knows that all of us are tempted to be concerned with other's approval, over the approval of God. This can be a very subtle shift, because of our human nature. One of our biggest challenges as believers is pride, which goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. While the sins of the flesh can be easy to see, pride is often hidden. Others may not see the motivation in our hearts, but God does. One of the greatest spiritual disciplines we might undertake to crucify this desire of the flesh, is giving done in secret. It is the one spiritual discipline that no one can see but God.
So we see the balance between doing the good works we were created to do, and giving God the glory for them. The more we realize our works are a byproduct of the grace we have received, the more our works will point to God. The real purpose of our works are to show who our God is. That is why our good works will shine God's light in a dark world, and are so desperately needed now. Too many Christians would prefer to sit in their "holy huddles" to avoid dealing with what we are seeing in the world today. Jesus cares too much about the world to not use His people to draw others to the light, and lead them to salvation in Him.