Tooting Your Own Horn

By Lee Jones

.:Matthew 6:1-4:.

There’s no worse thing to be called in larger evangelicalism than a “Pharisee.” There are many reasons why that group displeased God, but one of them was an immense amount of self-righteousness. 

So Jesus sets up a hypothetical situation to combat the self-righteousness of the Pharisees. In Luke, they are described as trusting “in themselves that they were righteous and looked on others with contempt” (Luke 18:9). Not only did they believe in themselves to prove that they were righteous, but they used that faulty theology to pass judgment on others. 

You’re not God’s gift to the world. Only Jesus has that role, and you need to repent and believe in Him to receive eternal life. 

A quick word on “hypocrites.” We have rewritten this word to mean someone who says one thing and does another, but the original meaning is not that binary. A hypocrite was an actor in the Greek theatre who often wore several masks in the course of a production, to more easily portray the various emotions his character or characters would feel. That’s where we get the classic image of the happy and sad masks that have become a logo for live theatre and opera. 

You might be asking, “what’s all this got to do with this passage?” It applies because this is exactly what the Pharisees were doing. Elsewhere Jesus calls the Pharisees “whitewashed tombs,” but they were seen as the spiritual leaders of the community. Their actions spoke loudly against them, but most didn’t have ears to hear. 

What are these actions? The first was sounding a trumpet. Jesus didn’t mean that literally, Pharisees didn’t being their own trumpeter as they went to the market. However, they were very good at making themselves seen and heard, like the shofar horns that were used occasionally in worship at the time. Jesus rebuked them for “tooting their own horn,” to use a common idiom of our day. It’s a sign of ungodly pride to believe everyone is better off under your influence, to believe you’re God’s gift to the world. 

You’re not God’s gift to the world. Only Jesus has that role, and you need to repent and believe in Him to receive eternal life. 

The Pharisees also made a lot of commotion in their charity. Elsewhere it’s noted that they tithed even their spice cabinets, putting even mint and cumin in the collection box. By making this show, they already got their reward. They thought they were serving God, when they were really serving their own consciences and getting pats on the back and awaiting judgment from God. A haughty spirit has never honored God. 

Rather Jesus says, “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” You, in giving with your right hand, shouldn’t immediately use your left hand to point out what you’re doing to others. We might call this “virtue signaling” today, and it’s one of the favorite sins of many people, especially celebrities and other elites. They all trumpet about the money they give to their favorite charities, doing photo-ops with the needy or with aid workers at home and abroad. They guilt others into giving to their causes in hopes of autographed memorabilia or a nebulous sense that they’re on the right side of history. 

Even the reprobate know that it’s objectively good to help others, as they have the work of the Law written on their hearts, but they give themselves the glory for their moral deeds rather than God, which is the heart of the sin nature. 

The church should be different. When we give, it is in the name of Christ and His gospel, not to show people how good and faithful we are. Rather, we should be humble, knowing every good thing we have is a gift from YHWH, and not to be used to make ourselves someone’s hero. In everything we do, whether giving to the poor or to our own churches or in any other expression of our faith, let us strive to live by this motto:

Glory to God alone. 

Lee Jones