The Hidden Righteousness of the Kingdom
Introduction and Almsgiving (Matt. 6:1-5)


Matt. 6:1 governs the next 17 verses on almsgiving, prayer, and fasting (WBC:138).

What does Jesus warn us of in 6:1?

According to Bertram, righteounsess "is almost always used in the NT for right conduct of man which follows the will of God and is pleasing to him". Too often we think of it in terms of Paul's use of the word: God making us right by our faith in Jesus' saving death: salvation by grace through faith. Whereas Paul's view is righteousness is definitely biblical and right, it is not relevant here. Here Jesus is speaking about right conduct, not necessarily a right relationship. Now don't mistake this righteousness for arighteousness we can achieve on our own. This righteousness "is plainly regarded as a gift which God gives to those who ask for it. Righteousness is here closely linked with God and His kingdom, again as a pure gift from God, like everything connected with the kingdom." (TDNT 2:198-199 by Bertram). In fact, it is only because of God's Spirit living within us that we can do righteous deeds.

Why did Jesus focus on these 3 aspects of righteousness--almsgiving, prayer, and fasting?

Instead of performing our righteousness in such a theatrical way in order to be seen by people we are to perform these acts in secret. Why in secret? First, all our deeds should be primarily for God's eyes, not for the eyes of other people. THE ONLY WAY THAT I CAN MAKE SURE THAT I AM DOING THESE THINGS IN ORDER TO PLEASE GOD AND GOD ALONE IS BY DOING THEM IN SECRET BECAUSE HE AND ONLY HE CAN SEE IN SECRET.

What title does Jesus give those who practice their righteousness in order to be seen by men?

The idea behind this word is that of "actor." Most of us can disconnect an actor from the role he/she plays on screen. Although sometimes they don't. For example, in the late 70's, Mary Tyler Moore was America's Sweetheart: funny, touching, sad at times, but always loveable. Then she made the mistake of starring in Ordinary People in which she plays Beth, a mother from hell. It ruined her career because she was so effective playing that role that from then on people could not separate her from Beth. Well, as effective as Mary Tyler Moore was in merging with her character, Beth, many hypocrites, like the Pharisees, are so effective in playing their role that people mistake them for genuinely righteous people. What is even sadder is that many times these hypocrites mistake themselves for genuinely righteous people. That is the saddest and most dangerous delusion of all.

Hypocrite "is the hardest word that Jesus has for any class of people and he employs it for these pious pretenders who pose as perfect" (RWP 1:50, 51).

"Their hypocrisy, is therefore, sin; failure to do God's will is concealed behind the pious appearance of outward conduct. The opposite of the hypocrisy of the adversaries is simple and unassuming doing of God's will, the real righteousness with which the disciples ought to surpas by far the scribes and Pharisees, Mt. 5:20. Hence the disciples are not to be as the hypocrites. They must not give, pray, or fast so as to be seen by men. On the contrary, these things are to be done by them in the concealment in which only God can see them, Mt. 6:2-4, 5, 16. The hypocrisy of the adversaries consists in the fact that they are concerned about their status with men rather than their standing before God. They thus fail to achieve the righteousness which they pretend to have" (TDNT 8:566-568 by Wilckens).

"Matthew captures the duplicity inherent in hypocrisy when he juxtaposes the word with the quotation of Isa 29:13, 'this people honors me with their lips, but heir heart is far from me' (15:8)" (WBC:139). What they were doing on the outside was totally unrelated to what was going on in the inside. What great crime did they commit which showed that their love for God was merely outward show and not inward reality?

Jesus claims that these hypocrites actually will receive a reward, even the reward they were seeking: Reward (misqon): "'The reward which God gives in recognition of the doing of His will.' The OT and Jewish idea of an earthly reward is now abandoned. [Reward] belongs wholly to God's world. It is God's affair, and as such comprehensive. In this is seen the unbridgeable gulf between the attitude of God to His children and the attitude of the world. The disciples of Jesus are persecuted by the world. God's dealings are the direct opposite. He shows to them, not the rejection and hatred of the world, but the acceptance of His love. He has for them a reward in the heavens, so that there can be only joy and gladness (Mt. 5:11). The distinctiveness of the divine reward is so radical, however, that if a man seeks human recognition and earthly gain for his acts he thereby forfeits the acceptance which God wills to grant him in the [reward]. Those who seek a human reward will be paid in full, Mt. 6:2, 5, 16. Those who make their right conduct toward men a matter of reckoning place themselves outside the divine sphere: 'You have no reward from your Father in heaven' (Mt. 6:1). For God's rewarding generosity is only for pure obedience which is free from all selfish calculation or external display (Mt. 6:2, 5, 16). Only thus does God reward as He alone can. Even then man receives a reward only when the obedience is supreme. Only the man who in love does what is unusual and unheard of may hope for God's reward: if you love those who love you, what reward do you have (Mt. 5:46); only where love shows itself to be without limits will there be the great reward of heaven (Lk. 6:35)" (TDNT 4:699-700 by Preisker).

How sad. We settle for so very little. We settle for the applause of people no greater than ourselves, whereas we could have heard the applause of heaven on Judgment Day. We settle for the little bit of glory we can have here on earth instead of holding out for ultimate glory. As Lewis states: "We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased" (Lewis, The Weight of Glory).


The first feature of piety Jesus comments on is almsgiving, literally "mercy." Now "performing deeds of mercy, or doing kindness, was one of the pillars of Judaism (m. 'Abot 1:2)" (WBC:139). In fact, if you go to Jerusalem today, you can see the 6 gates at the southern entrance from the direction of Bethlehem to the Temple compound, 3 on the right and 3 on the left. In order to help the poor and yet preserve their dignity, the Jews set up asystem in which the poor would enter through the 3 gates on the left and the rich through the 3 right gates. The poor would then enter through the 3 right gates and the rich through the 3 left gates. Why would they go in opposite directions? By the direction a person walked and by nothing else, a person could identify who needed money. He didn't have to beg; he just had to walk in the opposite directioin from the rich. This way the poor was not only taken care of, his dignity was also preserved.

Now in the NT, mercy is nearly always found in the sense of action, helping the poor, and not simply emotion, feeling sorry for the poor. How does James 2:14-17 address feeling versus action? (James is huge on helping the poor; he probably got this emphasis from his older brother.)

This emphasis in the NT from Jesus and the apostles was carried over to the early church: "Together with prayer, it is also a Christian exercise in [Didache] 15, 4; 2 [Clement]., 16, 4. Tabitha is lauded as [full of good works and mercy, which she was doing] like Cornelius, whose [mercies] are mentioned as a sign of his piety in Ac. 10:2. As Jesus in Mt. 6:2-4 warns against the misuse of almsgiving in the service of vanity, so Did., 1, 6 warns against imprudent almsgiving" (TDNT 2:485-487 by Bultmann).

Listen to a writing from the early church: "Almsgiving therefore is a good thing, even as repentance from sin; Fasting is better than prayer, but almsgiving better than both. And love covereth a multitude of sins, but prayer out of a good conscience delivereth from death. Blessed is every man that is found full of these. For almsgiving lifteth off the burden of sin" (2 Clem 16:4). [2 Clement is a second-century document probably wrongly attributed to St. Clement of Rome, the first apostolic father of the Christian church. Although St. Clement probably didn't write it, it is still from the early church.)

In the quotes above, we see that giving to the poor was not only important in the ministry of Jesus, but also in the church of the apostles and also in the early church, that is, the next few generations of Christians, Giving to the poor was so important in the church of the apostles that Paul's entire third missionary journey was actually for the purpose of gathering alms to help the poor in Jerusalem. The Catholic Church has continued this emphasis. For example, according to G.K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas was a good Catholic because he cared for the poor. When pastors of the evangelical emerging church claim that they have "discovered" the importance of helping the poor, they have shown themselves ignorant of the rich Catholic history of helping the poor. This helps explain the reason the Catholic bishops were so gung-ho to pass Obamacare until they realized that it funded abortions.

What does Jesus command His disciples NOT to do whenever they engage in acts of mercy?

The question invariably emerges: is Jesus speaking literally or figuratively? "McNeil suggests that it may refer to the blowing of trumpets in the streets on the occasion of public fasts. Vincent suggests the thirteen trumpet-shaped chest of the temple treasury to receive contributions (Luke 21:2). But at Winona Lake one summer a missionary from India named Levering stated to me that he had seen Hindu priests do precisely this very thing to get a crowd to see their beneficences. So it looks as if the rabbis could do it also. Certainly it was in keeping with their love of praise" (RWP 1:50). Maybe there were more "spiritual" reasons for blasting the trumpet whenever you gave to the poor: "many times the priests would blow the horns in the Temple in order to alert all the worshippers that someone was making a substantial contribution to the poor, for the purpose to encourage others to do likewise. (see TDNT 7:86). By drawing attention to themselves with the trumpets while they are giving to the poor, they are actually help raise more money for the poor. Such good hearts!

Jesus knows them better than that, even better than they know themselves. They blow the trumpets in order to get their praise from people. According to Jesus, do they get this praise from people?

According to Jesus, how much reward these hypocrites have?

They could have had so much more, and yet they settled for so little less.

"The use of present tense, 'they are having their reward,' implies that this temporary praise from others is all the reward they will receive, in deliberate contrast to the statement at the end of each of the three sections that promises a future reward (vv 4, 6, 18)" (WBC:140).

How secretive should the disciples be in giving charity to the poor?

When it is all said and done, the hypocrites were using the tragedy of the poor to further their own agenda--looking good in the eyes of the people. It is one thing to "use" the high and mighty, which is wrong in and of itself; however, to use the helpless in this manner is really beneath contempt. No wonder God does not reward them.

AND NOW FROM BONHOEFFER: From the Chapter Entitled The Hidden Righteousness

The beginning of this chapter in Cost of Discipleship is quite confusing because Bonhoeffer engages dialectical language. He is getting this language from probably the greatest Lutheran philosopher of all time, Søren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard was actually reacting to Friedrich Hegel, one of the most influential philosophers of the past 200 years, the father of evolution (in a philosophical sense); Darwin actually applied Hegel's philosophical dialectic (a philosophical evolutionary view of reality) to biology.

In a dialectic, you have 2 complete opposites; in this dialectic both opposites are true. It really is a form of Hinduism in which everything is right, even polar opposites. When Bonhoeffer speaks about we are to be secretive in our discipleship but also open in our discipleship and calls it a paradox, he is using dialectical language. The truth is that Jesus is not dialectical in His approach--something even Bonhoeffer implies in this chapter. Jesus tells us to let our light shine before men; here He commands us not to display our righteousness in such a way as to be noticed by men. In the first instance, Jesus is commanding us to infiltrate the world: a hidden Christianity is a contradiction in terms. On the other hand, we don't perform these righteous deeds in order to win the approval of men. There is no contradiction here and no paradox. Bonhoeffer is as serious a theologian as there ever was; here he may be bordering on playfulness in languages.

On page 158 DB asks: "From whom are we to hide the visibility of our discipleship?" What answer does he give to that question?

Our task is simply to do what?

"The disciple acts simply in __________________ to his Lord. That is, he regards the 'extraordinary' as the natural fruit of ___________________."

"All that the follower of Jesus has to do is to make sure that his obedience, following, and love are entirely _________________ and ___________________" and not premeditated calculations.

We are not even to be aware of our love for our enemies. In fact, once we love our enemies, what is true about them?

According to DB, manifestation is the appointed reward for hiddenness. What is the only question really for us?

"If the left hand knows what the right hand is doing, if we become conscious of our hidden virtue," what are we forging?

Genuine love is always what in the true sense of the word?

What was Jesus sounding when He said the left hand was not to know what the right hand was doing?