Brothers and sisters, here is the point: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written, "He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us.
Happy the man who fears the Lord,
who takes delight in his commands.
His sons will be powerful on earth;
the children of the upright are blessed. (R./)
Riches and wealth are in his house;
his justice stands firm for ever.
He is a light in the darkness for the upright:
he is generous, merciful and just. (R./)
Open-handed, he gives to the poor;
his justice stands firm for ever.
His head will be raised in glory. (R./)
Jesus said to his disciples, "Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
"So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
"And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
"And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
"Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works.." (Mt 5:16) and "Beware of practicing your piety before others; your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Mt 6:1; 18). It's not easy to find the right balance between those two sayings.
Ideally, we should practice generosity because it's right, rather than merely in order to be loved or praised, or remembered by posterity. Jesus suggests: "Let not your left hand know what your right hand is doing" (i.e., stay anonymous rather than seek to be celebrities). On the other hand, it's very hard to consistently live up noble standards without getting good example from others. In our turn, we need to give some good example in return. There is value in remembering God's deeds in the lives of his saints. Paul ventures to claim that the more we give to others, the more we ourselves will have. "Whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will reap generously." Here he echoes the maxim of Proverbs (11:24-25): "Some give freely, yet grow all the richer; others withhold what is due, and only suffer want. A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water."
To need constant approval is not psychologically or spiritually healthy. Such people are insecure about their own worth. If we are so taken up with seeking praise and recognition, we will have little time for others. In turn, even our friends may drop off and keep their distance. Jesus uses a graphic image to promote anonymous benevolence, "Do not blow a horn before you in synagogues and streets, looking for applause." He proposes a low-key approach to almsgiving, so that we do it anonymously, "not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing." The real motive for acts of mercy should be that they are what human decency requires, and not needing any other reward than that, "your Father who sees in secret will repay you."
Whenever we are in a position to help them, whether our contribution is material or spiritual, we must respect both our own dignity and theirs. Anonymous giving is praised, where the only witness is God "who sees in secret." Another way, Paul suggests, is to give so cheerfully that we find joy in giving, just as the other has in receiving our gift. If gifts are given with love, we are happy in seeing others happy, because we all belong to the one family of God.
Jesus says, "Be careful not to parade your good deeds before others to attract their notice." But earlier in the same sermon, he seems to have said the very opposite, "Let you light shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your Father in heaven." There seems to be a tension between these sayings. Yet, there is truth in both. We are not to hide the light of our faith, or hide it under a basket. Rather, we are to publicly proclaim our faith by our lifestyle, by what we actually do.
On the other hand, it is misguided to be merely self-promoters, trying to draw attention to ourselves, seeking praise or reputation. Rather, our living of our faith is because that is what God wants of us. It may be helpful to wonder, "Who is honoured by my self-publicising? Is it myself or is it God?" Alternatively, "Who am I trying to serve by my good deeds? Is it myself or is it the Lord?" When we pray "Hallowed by your name, your kingdom come" we remember that our main task in life is to give glory to God.