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Answering The Atheist
March 24, 2002 / Volume 2, Issue 12

Are good deeds to be done before men (Matthew 5:16) or are they to be done in secret (Matthew 6:3-4)?

Is there a contradiction?

My, how forgetful the questioner must think the Lord is. In the same sermon, He says to do good deeds before men, and then shortly thereafter, says not to. Let us examine the passages.

In Matthew 5:16, we read, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." In the context, Jesus illustrates how futile it is to light a lamp and put it under a basket, and how easily seen a city set on a hill is. Such examples are prefaced by the statement, "You are the light of the world." Christians are to be a shining light in a world of darkness (Philippians 2:15). The point of the text is clear. Jesus desires that His people conduct themselves in such as way that others will be drawn toward God by their works (1 Peter 2:12).

Matthew 6:3-4 reads, "But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly." The questioner conveniently did not reference v 1-2, so let us take a look, "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward."

The Lord does not say that we must hide our charitable deeds (good works) so that no one can see them. What He does say is not to draw attention to ourselves when we have done good. We are not to blow the horn of self-righteousness, and thus bask in the praises of men. If our good works are seen by men, the glory is to go to God (Matthew 5:16), not ourselves. However, when we do good, it may be that no one has seen what we did. However, we can know that God has seen, and will reward us for our good, since we did not seek the glory of men.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible