Matthew 6:2-4 Charity or Humble Brags?

“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 honoured 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 6:2-4

I have always wondered about these passages especially in the advent of social media, viral videos and posts. People these days are so eager to share everything in the internet for all the world to see from mundane to blatantly outrageous. Countless selfies, super cars, money and even sleeping selfies with the “#bless”.

Everybody can be public these days and become popular to their Facebook circles. In the past, we could never have such exposure that is available to ordinary citizens doing ordinary things. One can be very famous just by eating (Mukbang). So is it wrong to be always public? Well, there are pros and cons but that is not what I’ll be talking about.

What I’ll be talking are the verses about showing charity particularly in the passages found in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is telling us directly not to be a braggart just like the hypocrites do. These days, even acts of humility are becoming a badge of pride hence the coined term “humble-brag!”

So is it bad to “humble brag” for all to see?

We all brag one way or the other on a certain degree to our love ones and close friends. Bragging to the world how “good-hearted” you are because you give to the poor is pretty much on a different dimension. Some people do help and give simply because of compassion, others help and give for a more selfish reason. 

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 honoured by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

Sounding a trumpet according to bible commentaries is just a figure of speech meaning you’re telling the whole world about your works of charity. In this particular passage Jesus is warning us not to be like the Pharisees who are doing works of charity for the main reason of being honoured by men.

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.

This passage doesn’t really need a complex theological explanation. It means what is says. Do not brag about your acts of good deeds. God blesses those who give and more so to those who are humble in their deeds and are not showing off like those Pharisees of old.

In today’s social media universe…

If you give and help the poor regardless of being photographed or not because of compassion, then I believe you are not being like the Pharisees who wants to be “honoured by men.Some folks do good deeds to hoard LIKES and HEART emoticons but others simply do it out of kindness regardless of getting no reaction or becoming viral.

Others do it for marketing purposes: “it goes with the job” while others “show off” their charity works not just to get monetary support but also to encourage others to help. No matter how noble our deeds are as long as the primary intention is to really help and not hunt for “Facebook thumbs up” and be proudful then I truly believe we are not being “pharisee-tic.”

On the other hand, if some folks out there give to the poor for the sake of publicity, popularity or simply to get votes like the politicians do; God is using their selfish intention to bless some people. Either way, God’s purpose will always stand.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

“Is posting like blowing a trumpet?”

Of course, the moment we post in our Facebook timeline or any social media for that matter, we can’t help but expect to get a reaction and a number of comments good or bad. Posting itself is already announcing like blowing a trumpet in Jesus’ figure of speech. Again, the bottom line is showing off your good deeds to get the world’s praises and being prideful about it like the Pharisees in the New Testament is what Jesus is warning us about.

So my take?

The Pharisees were primarily known as the bastion of self righteousness who yoke the Jewish people even more than the letter of the law requires and from oral traditions that is beyond scriptural (Matthew 15:1-9).

Without sounding too deep: when you help the poor personally or for a group like NGO’s*, don’t get puffed up in your heart and brag about it for self gratification. Do it because you truly care.

*NGO – non government organisation e.g. UNICEF

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