Sitting on the Mountainside-Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

Day 27: “Giving to the Needy” 09.07.2018

Matthew 6:1-4 (NIV) “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “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 men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

The French play write Moliere filled his stories with amusing people. In one play (I can’t find the exact reference; if anyone knows it please advise) someone criticizes their friend with these words: “You always do the right thing for the wrong reason!” How often that is true. I suppose it is better to do the right thing regardless of the motive. But the Lord Jesus Christ is deeply interested in our motives because he is deeply interested in our hearts. Thus, this teaching is not primarily about generosity to the person in need. That is assumed by Jesus. It is about MOTIVES. It is about WHY we do things, even good things.

I suspect that I have never had a totally pure motive. I might preach a fine sermon to the glory of Christ, but I also enjoy the accolades that may follow. Maybe that is ok. Perhaps the point is balance. Am I desirous of preaching to glorify Christ and be thanked incidentally or the other way around? Motives are tricky to untangle. This really gets to the heart of what we are deep down. Put another way, if our motives are vain then deep down inside, we are shallow. Let’s consider the words of our Lord:

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

The Lord Jesus Christ does not deny that rewards are a reality in life. We want to be rewarded for the things we do. Something as simple as baking a fine cake might bring the reward of joy watching kids devour it at the birthday party. It can be rewarding to labor over the lawn and see it well-groomed at the end of the work. A paycheck is a reward. Perhaps the question is this: are we seeking Kingdom of God rewards when it comes to our actions and choices? The person who gives generously and visibly does so to receive the respect or appreciation of other people. But do we seek the approval of God? What if we give a substantial amount anonymously? What if we deliberately do not let others know what we have done? We will have eliminated the possibility of a “right now” earthly reward. But so what? How we do these things tells us much about our motives and thus reveals our hearts.

Years ago, a man asked me to be the agent for a group that was generous. They were investors and they wanted to help the needy as they became aware of their needs. They wanted total anonymity. A carpenter whose tools were stolen. A young mother in need of medical care. These men wanted to forward the funds to me and I would then be responsible for getting them to the person in need. It was a wonderful idea and we did bless a number of people. But acts of righteousness can be obnoxious to God if they are done for the glory of the man or woman doing them. That person has no reward from God in the form of blessing.

“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 men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”

The Christian is to be an anonymous source of blessings! Now, there may be a time when we make our giving public to encourage others to do so. More than once as a Pastor, I held up a check that we wrote when I was asking people to give an extra amount. My point was that I was not asking anything of them that Donna and I were not doing ourselves. But for the most part, we are to live out a “secret” relationship with our Heavenly Father.

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

This is delightful to contemplate. The word used here for “secret” is the Greek “krooptos” from which we get the word “crypt” meaning an underground, hidden vault! God wants us to hide our works of righteousness from others whenever possible. He is watching us in secret and he rewards us. He is keeping track. So, this teaching is easy. Jesus wants us to examine not just what we do but why we do it.

A modern song goes this way: “Change my heart Oh God, make it ever true. Change my heart Oh God, may I be like you!” We need to pray for hearts that want only one reward … and that from God. Not salvation because that comes by faith in Christ. No. Our desired reward must be the approval of God. To make Him joyful and to do that, we need to drop all concerns with how we look to other people. We must do the right thing for the right reason. Lest we be hypocrites.

More than any other group, Jesus condemned the hypocrites. The word is related to “actors.” Even their prayers were repulsive to God. Thus, next we come to Jesus looking at us sitting on the mountainside and teaching us to pray. What a privilege!

Blessings! Pastor Alberta

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