Disclaimer: THIS IS NOT A “PROSPERITY GOSPEL” MESSAGE
Today’s Hebrew word is Tzedakah. It is found at the beginning of Matthew Chapter 6 in the New Testament.
1 “Be careful not to parade your acts of tzedakah in front of people in order to be seen by them! If you do, you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 So, when you do tzedakah, don’t announce it with trumpets to win people’s praise, like the hypocrites in the synagogues and on the streets. Yes! I tell you, they have their reward already! 3 But you, when you do tzedakah, don’t even let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4 Then your tzedakah will be in secret; and your Father, who sees what you do in secret, will reward you. (CJB)
Does Tzedakah = Charity? In some English Bible Versions such as the New King James Version, the English word used in the place of tzedakah is “charity”. Charity is defined as “giving aid, assistance and money to the poor and needy or to other worthy causes.” It is an act of “benevolence [having a tendency to give or in the mood to do so] and generosity, a magnanimous [showing or suggesting a lofty and courageous spirit/showing or suggesting nobility of feeling and generosity of mind] act by the wealthy and powerful for the benefit of the poor and needy.” In other modern English translations of the Bible, the phrase “acts of righteousness”is used in its place (with quotations). It’s easy to take these “acts of righteousness” as something to be avoided because in Western culture today the word “righteous” is predominantly used a descriptive for the prideful or hypocritical. Add the fact that in this passage Yeshuah is teaching his disciples about something they shouldn’t do, and there you go. If we don’t look at this passage carefully, we can quickly assume that “acts of righteousness” seem forbidden.The true Biblical concept of “Righteous Acts” Since Yeshuah was Hebrew, we will study what this word meant in his culture. This is a fascinating word that does not have a one-dimension meaning, nor an exact equivelent word for it in English! We must look at the completeness of this word. Let’s learn the culture. Tzedakah means “righteous behavior” and is usually related to justice.It comes from the root word “Tzadei-Dalet-Qof,” meaning righteousness, justness and fairness. The word “tzedek” by itself means justice. The word “tzedek” is found in Dueteronomy 16:20: “Tzedek (Justice), only Tzedek (justice) you must pursue, so that you will live and inherit the land YHVH is giving you.” (CJB). One form of Tzedakah (righteous behavior) is giving to the poor. The righteous behavior of giving to those who lack is seen as an obligation, and everyone of various incomes must give to poor. Thus, giving to the poor is one way to administer justice. It is the civic duty to use one’s tangible resources to help heal the community and make it whole. Now we have the complete meaning of tzedakah. A Quick Re-cap: Charity is optional (done as a result of habit, character tendency, or wimsical decision), is money given from the rich to the poor, and often the giver is lofty or noble in his or her own mind. Tzedakah is obligatory, everyone who has must give to who does not, and it is a just act. The term “financial healing” in this passage places the emphasis on the giver to contribute to society, not to receive. Let’s make it plain. Righteous behavior is in itself is not abad thing nor is it wrong to be righteous or strive to be righteous. Yeshuah encourages tzedakah. He is not discouraging righteous behavior, but discouraging doing righteous behavior that is done only in front of others in order to be seen as more pious than everyone else. The Messiah himself gave to the poor, and he encourages believers multiple times in the Gospels to do so as well. Can you imagine if we took this passage only through our modern Western lense? “Those bad pharisees! They give to poor people!” Rather, they were spoken against because some of them were giving in order to create an idea of perfection in another man’s mind instead of being content with quietly pleasing YHVH with their sacrifice. We are obligated to financially help others–but–just as Yeshua often secretly healed, we are obligated to do so quietly. By:Kendra Love