Matthew 6 - Almsgiving

My question conerns Matthew 6: 3-4 which reads

(3) But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, (4) so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

My questions are:

1.) What does verse 3 mean? Be secretive about almsgiving?

2.) If I give a gift, is writing it off my taxes less secretive than not writing it off? Should I not write the gift off in order to keep it hidden? Or is it better to make these deductions and get the tax break in order than I might give more? Or maybe do a combination of both?

I know that second one sounds odd, but I’ve really been wondering about it.

Thanks,

-Tyler

Here is what a couple of Catholic Bible commentaries have to say about Matthew 6:3…

From A Commentary on the New Testament, published by the Catholic Biblical Association in 1942, page 55, on Matthew 6:2-3:
2. To *sound a trumpet before *oneself is a metaphor for ostentation. There is no reason to believe that the Pharisees, here called the hypocrites, did so literally. 3. Another metaphor, the sense of which is: "Do not even take self-satisfaction in thy almsgiving."
From A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, edited by Dom Bernard Orchard, published by Thomas Nelson & Sons in 1953, page 863, on Matthew 6:3:
The striking and original picture of secrecy (the right hand hiding its beneficence from the left) even suggests the unhealthiness of reflecting upon one’s own good deeds.

Yes - that is, don’t be talking about it to others (unless there is some good reason for doing so). Pride is often the motive for talking about it - wanting the praise of men and to appear great in their eyes.

I especially liked Todd’s quote that we should not spend time even reflecting on it ourselves. We can get prideful even in our interior thoughts alone.

2.) If I give a gift, is writing it off my taxes less secretive than not writing it off? Should I not write the gift off in order to keep it hidden? Or is it better to make these deductions and get the tax break in order than I might give more? Or maybe do a combination of both?

I know that second one sounds odd, but I’ve really been wondering about it.

No problem claiming it on your taxes. That’s not talking about it to others in order to get praised.

Nita

You have a choice in your alms deeds. You can get credit now or credit later. When Jesus says do it in secret, he means not to talk about it. To anyone. If you tell the fellow next door, he thinks what a fine Christian you are. If you tell the tax man, you get credit (lower taxes) now. Just the same as if you had rung a bell and shouted it on the street corner.
So. Credit now or credit later. Make up your mind.

Matthew

The reasons for Our Lord’s injunction for secrecy are given in verses 1 and 2:

Mt. 6:1-2 “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

Claiming donations on one’s income tax is not done for either of these reasons. The “practicing” or giving of alms was not done in front of IRS people in order to be seen by them; nor does one report it on their tax form in order to receive praise from them.

Nita

Thank you friends for the healthy debate on this topic.

I see Nita’s point that it was in the context of giving in order to be seen. (They had their reward already; they had been seen which is what they wanted - per the liner notes in the Scripture).

However, to touch upon Matthew and Todd’s points, when I tell my accountant (in order to get a deduction), while I may not be doing it to impress him, there is still a very real temptation to be proud.

If I were not to report it, that temptation would probably not be as strong, but I would be perhaps equally pained by losing additional funds which could go on to do (hopefully) more good.

It’s a tough balance, and I appreciate all of your responses.

I’ve got the solution tyler, Do your own taxes!!! :slight_smile:

The point is not how many people know that you gave alms, but that you were rewarded in this life for doing it. Thus claiming a deduction on your tax return is in effect getting a reward. The “praise” in this case is a government mandated reduction in your tax. You have indeed been praised for giving.

Matthew

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