“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. Matthew 6 (NIV)
Some scholars do not like when the word is translated as righteousness. Thayer shows the word as:
ἐλεημοσύνη – eleēmosunē – 1) mercy, pity 1a) especially as exhibited in giving alms, charity 2) the benefaction itself, a donation to the poor, alms
ἐλεημοσύνη – eleēmosunē – el-eh-ay-mos-oo’-nay – From G1656; compassionateness, that is, (as exercised towards the poor) beneficence, or (concretely) a benefaction: – alms (-deeds). G1656=eleos – el’-eh-os – Of uncertain affinity; compassion (human or divine, especially active): – (+ tender) mercy.
Some people take this verse to mean all good deeds. Once you decide what alms entails, you will then know what you are not supposed to do in front of others. I think this is to help people check their motives and server from the correct place, their hearts.
I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer rewards from God, rather than from people.
Jesus goes on to say:
So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
The text “give to the needy” is translated differently between the various translations, most translation show something more toward ‘when you do your alms.”
3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Same as above regarding translation. This verse has been used out of context when talking about giving monetarily as well as overseeing financial transactions within a church.
The part about the left and right hand is a reference to a proverbial saying. Basically it means to do something in secret. And when done this way, God will see and reward.
At the heart of this scriptures seems to be the message not to show compassion or mercy toward someone so other’s can see and pat you on the back. Compassion shown this way will be reward by God.