GROWTH AND SUCCESS IN LIFE – Lessons Learned at the Feet of Jesus – Sermon on Mount (Part 20)
The High and True Standard of God and His Kingdom is now developed by Jesus. Rather than listening to the phony teachers of the Law, the guardians of the Law who twisted Truth for their selfish interests, Jesus now lays out what standards are in harmony with a correct understanding of the Old Testament. The greatest sequel to this instruction is that Jesus in all he was and was to do came not to set aside or annual the Law but to fulfill it.
In this following section of six antitheses, Jesus places his own authority over the misinterpretations of the religious norm of His Day…’It is said, but I say…’ (Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38 and 43). Separating the counterfeit from the Real.
The gauntlet is down, and the standard is set now threefold:First, righteousness must be greater than the religious leaders (5:20); Secondly, a life of perfection which is like God the Father (5:48), and now, third, righteous acts not to be seen by men (6:1).
Matthew 6:1-41“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2“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 others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
1. Public Verses Private Acts of Worship. Here the command is to worship God by giving to those with needs around you but to do it privately and quietly. Not with promotion, not with public fanfare, not with public credits and honors. We chooseour reward by our conduct. We give to those around us publicly, and with human honor, then we have no heavenly reward. Or we give and meet needs in secret, quietly, with the analogy of even keeping your left hand and right hand uninformed, so that we are sure of our motives. It is an act of worship for God and not for man. It is righteousness in heaven, not on earth.
2. Lessons Learned from Biblical Giving. So far we have learned twofold: first, from the good Samaritan, my neighbor is one whose need I see and whose need I can meet (Luke 10:25-37). No other analysis needed. If the need is seen but cannot be met, or not seen in order to be met, that person is not yet my neighbor. Otherwise, secondly, Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27). Remembering that giving to those in distress means likely entering into their distress with them in some fashion, not tossing our gifts from afar. Now in this sermon on the Mount, we give in secret, privately, without publicity, recognizing that with these spiritual acts there is heavenly reward.
3. An Important Postscript. We have not yet dealt with the subject of “tithing.” We will. In the Old Testament, the series of commanded tithing totaled not 10% of income but closer to 30% when all totaled together. In the New Testament, again, it is not a percentage of giving, it is cheerful giving as we purpose in our heart with generosity (2 Cor 9:6-7) and in proportion to what we have and have purposed and set aside (1 Cor 16:1-2). More on this another day.
Do you see this: Our giving to others is ‘as unto the Lord’, is a regular act of worship, and in gratitude for what God has given us, both spiritually, materially and financially. It is interesting that, per capita, the Christian church gave more to charity during the Great Depression than any time recently! Maybe the reality is the more we have, the more we want, and for purposes of consuming on ourselves. Maybe the echo of James is a good reminder: 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.James 4:3.
We live in a country of abundance and plenty. Just compare our grocery stores with anywhere else in the world. Our pantries and freezers and garages are jammed with food and stuff. Downsizing is half the answer. The second half is redirecting our energies and resources toward others – without public fanfare, but with generosity and purpose, motivated by God’s love and mercy for us.
Best to you this week. In the next weeks, we will learn the how and what of a biblical prayer life.
— John Moore