But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
Matthew 6:3 ESV
Both the “religious” man and the “godly” man can see that there is good benefit in giving to the needy — the religious man from a self-serving nature to be praised by men or to increase in vain-glory — and the “godly” from an inward principle that wells up allowing neither complacency or ostentation in the face of need.
The religious man will find that he cannot use fear of vain-glory as the valid excuse for complacency in his ignoring the needs of others, nor can he choose to receive his reward now and expect his work to not be burned up in the discerning fires.
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
1 Corinthians 3:10-15 ESV
This can be a challenging subject for a religious man to consider, since he cannot trust his own heart in such matters. The heart is deceitful and will fight like a special forces team inserted in the dark of night to defend ego when it sits upon the throne of prideful men’s hearts. And it would rather the man abandon consideration of helping his needy brother than insure that God alone receives any and all glory.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.“
Jeremiah 17:9-10 ESV
And while this should be a comfort to the man who is fully trusting in the Lord to establish his steps — it should be a horribly fearful warning to the m as n who counts on the evidence of his good works and reputation to account for anything in the Kingdom of God. Psalm 139 reminds us that He is acquainted with all of our ways, our innermost “why” behind both our action and our inaction:
You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
Psalm 139:3 ESV
So we are warned that any “mixed motives” are not mixed at all — that we cannot serve two masters. This is the very definition of the “religious” man, because he seeks the appearance of serving God like the “godly” man, but he is not actually surrendered and serving God — He still loves himself too much to die to self.
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
Matthew 6:24a ESV
And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord , choose this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord .”
Joshua 24:15 ESV
“Christian”, whether we be a “religious” man or a “godly” man, we must examine ourselves and inquire with God for the truth about who it is who lives in this vessel:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Galatians 2:20-21 ESV
If we find evidence of mixed motives, do not fear. We need only confess our sin, turn back to God in repentance, believe in Him and not ourselves for our salvation, and seek His glory and not our own in our sanctification.
We must not ignore such a call for surrender when we find that ego has even a foothold left upon the territory of our hearts. We must shine the light of God’s grace and mercy on that territory and see the enemy flee. Any counterfeit kings, idols, gods trying to lay claim to territory in our hearts must die — even ego/self — to make way for the only King that will truly love us and not harm us — King Jesus.
And when He is truly King, we will not fail to give to the needy, because it is in His character and nature and He is living in us and through us. We will not seek honor from men or bathe ourselves in vain-glory because it isn’t something we are doing ourselves that is spectacular or to be put on display, but it is what He is doing through us. It is then that He can fulfill the following scripture through us:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-16 ESV
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 6:1 ESV
Such things aren’t possible for even a very “religious” man. A man with “mixed motives”, with a checklist of “what I can do” and another list of “what I can’t do” will never reconcile Matthew 5:14 and Matthew 6:1, because he has made it about himself. This is explained explicitly when Jesus speaks about riches (the other extreme from need):
And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Matthew 19:23-26 ESV
And even when Peter, like a very “religious” man says:
Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?“
Matthew 19:27 ESV
Peter in that moment reveals his left hand. “Look what I’ve done! What do I get?” Vain-glory on display right there in front of God. Isn’t that how we can be at times, even in our prayers? Even in our “ministry”? Even in our “good works”? But Jesus doesn’t smite him. He doesn’t disqualify him. In language we might better understand today, “Jesus doesn’t have Peter box up his belongings, accept a severance package, thank him for his time and send him packing because he just doesn’t get it. Nor does he give him a checklist of do’s and don’ts. He points to the answer that is beyond self, He points to something beyond this fallen world, He points to an upside down Kingdom where God accomplishes what man cannot — through selfless, sacrificial love.”
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
Matthew 19:28-30 ESV
Lord, rather than just scrambling for what rough edges we might need knocked off, polished up, and put on display for others to see as the image of who we are — put your light on display through us so that men might be in awe of your glory, your grace, your mercy, your love, and your holiness. Come do in us the amazing things for others for your glory that we would either not do, or would do for our own glory. Take your rightful place upon the throne of our hearts and lives, and lead us by your Holy Spirit to see all the counterfeit idols cast out of the territory of our heart, mind, speech and actions for your sovereign reign. Establish our footsteps in The Way, and lead us. Amen.