Mathew 5:14 (KJV)

14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Mathew 6:1 (KJV)

1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. 2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

How can we reconcile the 2 texts

  • The intention behind works could be more important than the works themselves!....... In Mathew 6:1 alms are given with the intent of self-glorification whereas in Mathew 5:16 the intent is to glorify God.
    – Martin
    Commented Jan 22, 2021 at 23:05

5 Answers 5


These two texts are not targeted at the act of service or sacrifice itself, but instead the results of that act. The question is not whether the act should be publicly known or not, but instead the text is centered on the results: Who is glorified.

In Matthew 5:16, the result is glory to the Father:

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

In contrast, In Matthew 6:2, the men giving alms robbed the Father of his rightful glory and instead they (the men) were glorfied:

Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

What the author of Matthew is teaching is that whatever we do, whether we do it publicly or in secret it should bring Glory to the Father and that we should never rob the father of his rightful glory.


I think it's helpful to view chapters 5 and 6 sequentially in order to see Jesus' train of thought. It also allows us to have context regarding meaning.

The apparent contradiction about works is instead a contrast in audience and intent. 5:14-16 is addressed to Jesus' disciples and the gathering crowd with the intent of encouraging those who are the lowly of this earth (5:3-11) to be faithful in their Christian walk despite the adversity. The turning point in this speech is 5:20 -

"For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."

The verses that follow 5:20, including your second passage of 6:1-4, are examples of the religion espoused by the teachers of the law versus what true faith in Jesus Christ looks like. The verses are addressed still to the same disciples/crowd gathering but are pointed at the Pharisees and false teachers of the time.

The big picture explanation is that Jesus wants us to be more than the most devout "Christian" who seeks only to please himself, seeks the praise of his fellow men, and seeks to further only his kingdom (contrast with 6:33). Works are the necessary outworking of our faith, but even works can be polluted when done for worldly gain.


To me, the 1st quote is addressed to the new Christians as a whole & the word "men" sounds like non-Jews & non-Christians, i.e., all men of the whole world. For example, instead of criticising a different religious belief system, one shows love towards people who believe in another religion, thus to not create social friction & animosity. Another example is the Christian community show the non-Christian world how they love each other & thus inspire the world to love.

The 2nd quote sounds like personal acts of charity, which a individual person believes they are making personal merit or "point scoring with God" by doing. Therefore, the 2nd quote is about not doing personal charity for a conceited purpose but, instead, doing genuine acts of charity for the true of helping another. When giving is done with a truly merciful intention, the heart/soul will be blessed with mercy, i.e., beauty & spiritual treasure.



Firstly, there is a difference in the Greek of Matthew 6:1 that is provided by the TR - Textus Receptus, and that provided by Nestle-Aland. The KJV comes from TR and has ἐλεημοσύνην (alms), whereas the HCSB, for example, comes from Nestle-Aland, and has τὴν δικαιοσύνην (righteousness).

1 Be careful not to practice your righteousness[a] in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! 3 But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.[b]
-- Matthew 6:1-4 (HCSB)

Matthew 6:1 Other mss read charitable giving
Matthew 6:4 Other mss read will Himself reward you openly

My answer arose from the Nestle-Aland text, but it is still applicable, regardless of the Greek text chosen.


τὴν δικαιοσύνην is what Jesus uses in the sermon on the mount when he says:

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness τὴν δικαιοσύνην: for they shall be filled.
-- Matthew 5:6 (KJV)

τὴν δικαιοσύνην is what Jesus uses later in Matthew 6 to explain the sort of righteousness one should be hungering and thirsting for:

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness τὴν δικαιοσύνην; and all these things shall be added unto you.
-- Matthew 6:33 (KJV)

In Matthew 6:1 Jesus says not to do τὴν δικαιοσύνην ὑμῶν (your righteousness), and then goes on to say in Matthew 6:33 that we should seek τὴν δικαιοσύνην αὐτοῦ (his righteousness). This can only mean that "man's righteousness" is not always the same as "the Father's righteousness". How can they not be the same?

Well, the Father's righteousness glorifies Him, and man's righteousness glorifies him. So, every time a man is glorified, then it's "his righteousness" that achieves it, and every time the Father is glorified, it's "His righteousness" that achieves it. There clearly must be something about what moves a man, such that his glory becomes His glory.

Now, if a man were to do ἐλεημοσύνην (alms, i.e. charitable deeds - Matthew 6:2) in such a way as to glorify himself, then such behaviour is motivated by "his righteousness, not "His righteousness".

In regard to Matthew 5:14, Jesus uses ὑμῶν τὰ καλὰ ἔργα (your good works) to explain what he means by "let your light so shine". ἔργα is a generic term for any activity that occupies one's time. So, what are "good works"?

Good works are those activities that move the community towards a state of goodness, i.e. those typified by heavenly governance, peace, blessing, comfort, healing, and prosperity; and away from a state of evil, i.e. those typified by human governance, discord, distress, misery, injury, and loss.

Good works speak for themselves, and will, in-and-of-themselves, bring esteem to the one who does them. However, Jesus tells us that the PURPOSE of good works is that men should "glorify your Father which is in heaven". To do this, the Father's pleasure must be preeminent in the pursuits of one's heart. However, only the person him/herself and God, are privy to such knowledge.

To do what pleases God one must LEARN what pleases Him, which is the function of Scripture. Besides giving details of His Law, Scripture also documents many, many case studies (OT & NT) concerning what it is about human endeavour that grieves Him, and what it is that brings Him joy.

Anyone can read the text of Scripture and benefit from it words, but the narrative of OT Scripture declares that to LEARN from it God's righteousness, the spirit of God must be the teacher.

26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. ... 32 Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord GOD, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel.
-- Ezekiel 36:26,32 (KJV)

The narrative of NT Scripture declares that Jesus Christ is the means through which such transformation of heart is possible.


These are some great insights. I believe there's a distinction in the activities of the two verses.

I believe Matthew 5:14-16 in regard to your God-given gifts and talents. God has given us all unique giftings, some quite marvelous from musical abilities, business, athletics, teaching, invention, you name it. And because many gifts combined with diligence and dedication can produce fruit from the world, (finances, recognition, etc) we Christians can get shy about them, or even feel a weird sense of guilt, and sort of hide them under a bowl. I think Jesus is saying, no, use your gifts with boldness, celebration, and thankfulness, and when people see them ask about them be authentic. Tell them of your struggles. Tell them of God's goodness and provision. And in order to do that, I think we must continually ask the Holy Spirit to help us acknowledge the giver of all gifts and be a continual check on our spirit not to seek the praise of man as fruit but the praise of God, and if the praise of man comes, let it simply be a byproduct.

Then in Matthew 6:1, I think he's specifically referring to donations, tithes, charitable support, and the like. Don't do it with fanfare and a desire for recognition.

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