Carla was tired. Every week she showed up to the food pantry to help serve. She had been a constant recruiter to the cause. She had been doing it weekly for several years. She had gone through all the phases of serving. The initial excitement gave way to constant frustration. Eventually, adjustment to a better picture of reality set in. That still didn’t change her tiredness. She had been trying to get others to join her but to no avail. She wasn’t sure what to do now. Was it worth it to keep showing up?
James was proud. He was seen around the office as the go-to guy. Everyone knew it. Anytime someone needed something he was there. Oil change. Loan someone a few extra bucks. He got such happiness from knowing people would turn to him. Recently, some of the asks from others seemed odd. James wasn’t so sure about his continued response. He couldn’t pick and choose who he would help. He had an image to maintain. Why had he been so open to others if the first place?
Lloyd just tried to stay out of people’s way. Because he didn’t speak much people thought he listened well. So they shared. He would hear hurts and frustrations. He would even hear of an opportunity. However, he was so nervous about how someone would react that he often did nothing. It was better to pass the buck to someone else than face the awkwardness of trying to help. How would people react?
Image management is choosing certain actions so that others will perceive us in a certain way. A life fueled by image management is like putting diesel in your gas-powered car. It appears to be the same thing but won’t get you anywhere.
Maybe you find a connection with one of these stories. As the wheel of life keeps rolling, our ultimate motivation comes to the surface.
After Jesus’ initial years of ministry, He gathers the disciples who have now been appointed as apostles and teaches a sermon. This section of the book of Matthew and the sermon is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount. It was delivered to the disciples of Jesus on the mountainside there above the Sea of Galilee. “Seeing the multitudes, he went into a mountain: and he was set, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth and he taught them, saying,” (Mat 5:1-2).
This Sermon on the Mount is not for general world consumption. It is not a system of laws and all that the world should inaugurate or even can inaugurate. The Sermon on the Mount is to the disciples of Jesus Christ, and it is only those who have been described in the first part of the sermon that can really put these things into practice and that only through the power of the Holy Spirit. Others do hear Jesus talk to these disciples.
Today as we talk about give over get, some of you may want to try to put this into practice however as we talk about generosity at some point you will become exhausted or fed up because there is no internal transformation that makes generous living sustainable. That’s the point. Jesus is now going to address the right actions but the wrong motives.
The opening line of Matthew six succinctly summarizes the central theme of the paragraphs to follow. Jesus warns his followers to not do their acts of righteousness for the purpose of being seen by others. “Acts of righteousness” are defined as pious acts motivated by one’s devotion and relationship with God. There are things such as the right actions.
Last week, we established the priority of giving. This week is the character. Values shape not just actions, but also attitudes.
“Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what is was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature.” – C.S. Lewis
Our goal is to become a person who eternally receives and reflects God’s love. The risk is that people may choose to become the antithesis of this. Giving shapes not just one area of our life but all areas. A choice to not give hardens in us a resistance to giving.
So here Jesus addressed the danger of cultivating an image of righteousness. It is almost impossible to do spiritual things in front of others without thinking what their opinion is of us as we do those things, and how they are thinking better or worse of us as we do what we do.
There are some who say, “All that is important is the doing of the deed. How I do it is much less important than the doing of it.” It is true that in some cases it would be better to do the right thing in the wrong way or out of the wrong motive than to do the wrong thing, but Jesus’ point is clear: God cares about how we do our good works, and with what motive we do them.
This does not contradict His previous command to let your light so shine before men (Matthew 5:16). Although Christians are to be seen doing good works, they must not do good works simply to be seen. If our desires reflect our destination, and our destination is eternity, don’t we want others to see our good works? Yes – but others seeing your faithfulness, discipline, dutifulness – will not sustain you.
Jesus thus begins to deal with three spiritual disciplines: giving, prayer, and fasting. “These three were (and are) the most prominent practical requirements for personal piety in mainstream Judaism…These same three activities, together with the specifically Islamic requirements of the Hajj and recitation of the creed, constitute also the Five Pillars of Islam.” What makes Christianity unique…If you have a Catholic or Mormon background…you are taught works contribute to your salvation.
Give over get directly counters other worldviews. People give to get.
Moving on to verse two, a fundamental expression of Jewish piety involved a charitable and benevolent response to the poor and needy. Jesus assumes an ongoing benevolent concern for the needy. He is emphatic that his followers refrain from actions calculated to shift attention to oneself.
The usage of “trumpet” is illustrative of the extreme measures to which some will go in pursuit of public acclaim. Therefore, if charitable acts are performed for worldly acclaim the performer will be well compensated by the world’s temporary applause.
The word “hypocrite” needs to be defined. The term was used for an actor. By the time of the NT the term came to have a metaphorical usage describing one who through pretense, either consciously or unconsciously, assumes a role that conceals an inner reality. There is inherent duplicity attached to the term.
We aren’t good evaluators of other’s motives. We can only evaluate our own. “Oh, let us rather seek to be good than seem to be so.
I assure you: They have their reward: Jesus tells the one who gives so he can hear the applause of others that he should enjoy the applause because that will be all the reward that he will receive. There will be no reward in heaven for the one who did it for the motive of an earthly reward. It is all they will receive. ‘They have received payment in full.’
Getting our reward here can come in many forms. I’m less inclined to think it shows up in the form of actual awards. It likely manifests itself in put-downs so that others can lift us up.
As a Church, we have to be very careful that we aren’t doing good things so that we grow. Rather we do good things out of a response to who Jesus is.
From this sermon, I will…..Give over Get
- Identify your intention:
- Identify your reluctance
Our intent is determined by what we want and expects from our actions. When we do good deeds to be seen by human beings, that is because what we are looking for is something that comes from human beings.
Jesus gives us “Now What?” in verses three and four. The figurative expression of not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing graphically illustrates the unpretentious and unassuming manner of true piety. Charitable acts are so fundamentally inherent to the character of those in the kingdom that they are performed even without self-conscious recognition or appraisal.
We serve a God who looks upon the heart, not mere outward appearance, therefore religious devotion begins with the heart and inner motivations behind the external act.
And your Father who sees in secret will reward you: Jesus pointed out the great value of doing good deeds for the glory of God. It is much better to receive our return from God, who rewards much more generously and much more openly than men do.
God does see in secret. “We should ever remember that the eye of the Lord is upon us, and that he sees not only the act, but also every motive that led to it.”
We should not miss the strength of the promise – these things done the right way will certainly be rewarded. We can be sure of that, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
I had shared that these values aren’t just values that we think you should live out, but they are values that we as a church want to embody—collectively.
The church is called to embody Jesus. Jesus gave. He lived selflessly. When we pattern our character and priorities after Him and not some image we feel that we need to maintain we will become more human and testify to our eternal reward.