“Take good care not to practice your righteousness in front of men in order to be observed by them; otherwise you will have no reward with your Father who is in the heavens.” (Matt. 6:1) By “righteousness,” Jesus meant conduct that conforms to the divine will. He did not mean that godly deeds should never be done in public, for he had told his disciples to “let [their] light shine before men.” (Matt. 5:14-16)
But we will “have no reward” from our heavenly Father if we do things “in order to be observed” and admired, like actors performing onstage in a theater. If we have such motives, we will not enjoy a close relationship with God or the eternal blessings of Kingdom rule.
If we have a proper attitude, we will follow Jesus’ admonition: “Hence when you go making gifts of mercy, do not blow a trumpet ahead of you, just as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be glorified by men. Truly I say to you, They are having their reward in full.” (Matt. 6:2) “Gifts of mercy” were donations made to support the needy. (Read Isaiah 58:6, 7.) Jesus and his apostles had a common fund for use in helping the poor. (John 12:5-8; 13:29)
Since almsgiving was not literally preceded by trumpet blasts, Jesus evidently used hyperbole when he said that we should not “blow a trumpet” ahead of us when making “gifts of mercy.” We are not to publicize such giving, as the Jewish Pharisees did. Jesus called them hypocrites because they advertised their charitable donations “in the synagogues and in the streets.” Those hypocrites were “having their reward in full.”
The acclaim of men and possibly a front seat alongside noted rabbis in the synagogue would be all the reward they would get, for Jehovah would give them nothing. (Matt. 23:6) How, though, were Christ’s disciples to act? Jesus told them—and us:
“But you, when making gifts of mercy, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, that your gifts of mercy may be in secret; then your Father who is looking on in secret will repay you.” (Matt. 6:3, 4) Our hands usually work together. Therefore, not letting the left hand know what the right is doing means that we do not advertise our charitable deeds, even to those as close to us as our left hand is to our right hand.
If we do not boast about our charity, our “gifts of mercy” will be in secret. Then our Father, “who is looking on in secret,” will repay us. Residing in the heavens and invisible to human eyes, our heavenly Father remains “in secret” as far as mankind is concerned. (John 1:18) Repayment from the one “looking on in secret” includes Jehovah’s bringing us into an intimate relationship with him, forgiving our sins, and granting us eternal life. (Prov. 3:32; John 17:3; Eph. 1:7) That is so much better than receiving praise from humans!