Beware of practicing your righteousness before men in order to
be seen by them; otherwise 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 their reward. (Matthew 6:1-2)
Hypocrisy is defined as pretending you're something you're not.
Jesus adds to this definition by describing hypocrisy as doing
your righteous deeds to be seen by men. Some people give to the
poor or to Christian work in order to help people and to serve
God. They will receive eternal reward. But others give in order to
be seen by men. They want others to be impressed with them, and
generosity makes them look good. When good works are done to be
seen by man, Jesus says, "You have your reward." You've impressed
Some fundraisers appeal to this wrong motive. They try to
motivate potential donors by promising to trumpet the person's
generosity. "If you give $1OOO, we'll put your name in the
brochure, and if you give $1,OOO,OOO, we'll put your name on the
new building. Then everyone will know how generous you are!"
It is not wrong to publicly acknowledge the generosity of
donors. However, it is wrong to appeal to a person's desire to
look good rather than to his desire to benefit people and to serve
God. Another way to capitalize on the "fear of man" is to publicly
embarrass those who don't give or who don't give enough. Such uses
of the fear of man can be extremely effective if you measure
effectiveness by the amount of money raised. However, if you
measure effectiveness by whether or not God is pleased, a
different strategy must be adopted.
The key is the motive behind the good deed. Being seen by men
does not cause the forfeiture of eternal reward. Eternal reward is
lost when a person does good works in order to be seen by men.
Jesus portrays the praise of men as a goal not worth seeking.
The praise of God is another story.
Turn away from man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what
account is he? (Isaiah 2:22)