Practicing Righteousness to get noticed. Matt. 6:1-6
November 2, 2014 Series: The Gospel of Matthew
Topic: Sunday AM Passage: Matthew 6:1–6:6
Matt. 6:1-6 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
2“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3“But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
5“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
My first thought was to quickly go through this section so that we could get to the glorious Lord's prayer.
The passage is simple. The words are simple. Nothing here that stumps interpreters. There are several 3 syllable words. Only one with 4 syllables.
But the underlying concept here is so profound that better men than me have been trying to understand it and make it understood for centuries.
I often say that the reason I like verse by verse exposition from the front of a book to the back is because by doing it that way, sooner or later, we will, as Paul said, make known unto you the whole council of God.
This passage this morning offers one of those opportunities to teach a concept that undergirds the entire Bible, and one that most christians rarely think of. Indeed, most evangelical mega-churches wouldn't touch this with a ten foot pole. It is counterintuitive. Difficult.
I admit that the problem here is well beyond your humble teacher's abilities. I'm getting in way over my head, as it were. If I can just get you thinking about these things, that'll be a success.
First then, we'll take a surface look at what these verses are saying, and then I want to go diving and spilunking to get at what's driving this discussion, how it applied to the pharisee's of Jesus day, and how, perhaps, it applies to us.
The passage is simple, and oh! so profound.
He states the thesis in Vs. 1, then gives 2 examples in Vs. 2-4, and 5,6.
Matt. 6:1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
This is all about motive, isn't it.
Here the word righteousness has a unique meaning to the jews who were sensitive to the necessity of doing the law of Moses. The requirements of the law were never far from their thoughts, and the religious jew was circumspect about working out his righteousness.
Jesus doesn't break that spell. He doesn't tell them "at ease". Go libertine and forget about the law and working out your righteousness.
The key to this verse is the word theathÄ"nai which is translated to be seen or to be noticed. It's the greek word that we get our word theatre from.
And that's exactly what we have here. A bit of theatre. It's Brother Love's traveling salvation show.
Pack up the babies and grab the old ladies
And ev'ryone goes, 'cause everyone knows
Brother Love's a show Halelujah.
No audience. No righteousness. No reward.
Does God owe us a reward for doing righteousness? Being righteous. Walking circumspectly?
Absolutely not. But the universe He created is wired so that living rightly has it's own built in rewards.
And then there's grace. Even though the most righteous of us doesn't deserve anything, it pleases Him to bless us, anyways.
The rewards Jesus speaks of here, are magnanimous and gracious. God pours out blessing on His children, just because . . It pleases Him to do that.
But not for folks working an audience. There is No reward from God for the folks putting on a religious show.
Jesus gives us 2 examples of what he's talking about. Giving, and Prayer.
2“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
Jesus paints this picture for us. Here comes Mr. Rich and important and he's got a guy with a trumpet clearing his way and a couple of mignon's carrying the train of his robes to keep it out of the dust, and when he gets to the plaza of the temple grounds he orchestrates the giving of his alms so that his audience will swoon and say Oh! Ah! Such magnificent righteousness is on display!
That swooning audience. That Oohing and ahing. That honor that the temple treasurer and the adoring fans that surround him have given him. Guess what. That's it. For a full 3 minutes, those folks are going to think, Oh, what a godly and righteous man this is. 3 minutes is about the average. Paid in full. That's it. Then everybody moves along.
Take that to the bank. Get you some of that! Empty. Vanished. Nothing. His full reward is exactly nothing within a minute or 2 of his righteous theatre.
Again, Jesus doesn't say "at ease". Don't bother giving to the poor. No way. It's never a question of whether or not a Godly person will help those less fortunate than he is. But how he does it is totally different.
3“But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
Here, the motive is totally different. Nobody sees. Nobody knows. But this person believes in a God who sees and knows. His motive is love, for God and for the hurting folks around him.
He knows that Moses said; Deuteronomy 15:7
If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them.
and that Proverbs 19:17 says; He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will He pay him again.
Again, no reward is due. God doesn't owe us anything. But when you take pity on the poor ones that God loves, and help them, God repays with interest.
This isn't some sort of prosperity gospel where you send off seed money with the motive of self profit, and God gives you a mansion. Nobody said the repayment is here. In fact Jesus sort of alludes that the reward may be waiting for you in heaven.
Mark 10:…20And he said to Him, "Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up." 21Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
The rich young ruler. He couldn't swing it. He went away sad, and it says it made Jesus also sad.
Jesus promised treasure in heaven. In our economy and world situation, that's a good deal. People are buying gold like mad! Round Mountaing Gold Co. can't make the stuff fast enough.
Thinking people are looking around this world and saying, this is nuts. This is un-sustainable. Somethings about to happen. Stocks and bonds are going to go up in a cloud of virtual smoke. Gotta buy gold. And a safe to put it in. And a bunch of guns to protect my safe. On this earth, in this world, gold is . . the gold standard.
We can store up treasure in heaven! Take your money out of stocks and send it to feed Syrian christians that are hungry and homeless. Win Win. Preaching to myself, as usual.
What the rich young ruler failed to realize was that the Treasure was speaking to him. How much better off in this life! To have Jesus! To have followed Him! To have been part of the company that turned the world upside down.
The treasure was standing there, and would have been his both now and in heaven.
The treasure, the reward, isn't measured in world standards. Dollars. Ounces of gold. Whatever. The treasure, the reward is walking daily, here and now, with Jesus. Follow me. Follow the real treasure.
The pharisees and scribes were blind. The rich young ruler came that close! to the kingdom, counted the cost, and kept his money.
Another illustration of theatre vss. 5,6; 5“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
Hypocrites. What a great word. If you haven't had it thrown in your face, you're living a sheltered life. Get out and knock on some doors. That way some hypocrite can tell you what you are.
Invite them to church. We've got plenty of room for one more.
hypocrite hupokrités (hoop-ok-ree-tace') The english is just a direct transliteration of the greek. Except to us it has a negative connotation. You phony. You hoser. A con man. The original word was in common use by the greeks to describe what we would call an actor.
I think that's actually more colorful in the way Jesus uses it. This is theatre, and what do you find in theatres? Actors. Very convincing actors. We almost never think of them as hypocrites. They're professionals doing a job, and we rarely remember to think that when their work day is done and they go home, they aren't the person we saw at all. They're somebody else.
These religious pharisees, full of righteousness, making loud prayers in the synagogues and in the temple. Putting on a show just like Brad Pitt. George Clooney. How righteous he is. If Jesus were here, George and Brad could teach him a thing or two about righteousness. Nothing much has changed.
6“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
Inner room. Have you ever been out in the sagebrush looking at old mine sight areas where there are remains. I've seen lots of little storage places, dug into the side of a hill for coolness, and a doorframe at the front for protection.
That's the inner room described by this greek word. It's typically a little cave, and when you go in there, and shut the door, it's pitch black. No one looks for you in there. People don't go in their caves and hang out. Unless they're weird. Photographers.
Go in your little cave. Close the door so it's dark. You can't see your left hand or your right. That's where you pray. Total opposite of the pharisees. So removed in fact, if someone like your wife or kids sees you come out, they'll wonder about you. Dad's acting weird. Locked himself in his cave again.
That's the family that will be blessed. Your Father, who sees in secret, will look right inside your heart in that little pitch black room.
Again, Jesus talks about reward. Again, God doesn't owe us anything. But oh my! the sweet rewards of prayer. Burdens are lifted. Loved ones are gloriously saved. Miracles are put in motion.
The pharisees get their reward. The audience thinks well of them. For a whole minute perhaps. Then it's gone like the breeze that was here a minute ago. That's it. That's what they get.
The man or woman in the dark storage room. They are changing the coarses of events in loved ones lives that will last for eternity.
I love the story in the screwtape letters about evil spirit in training. And he's with uncle screwtape I guess, and they're flying over a church and from their standpoint, it's a nonevent. A couple of demons taking care of that. But then a mile down the road the demons are in an uproar, near panic. And there's a lot of them.
And the young demon asks, what's happening here? And screwtape says, there's an old man and an old woman in that house who are mighty in prayer, and they know how to turn our forces inside out. They cause no end of trouble to us!
See. That was easy. No rocket science.
Did you find yourself in there? Are you different enough for an hour and a half or 2 hours on Sunday mornings than you are the rest of the week that you've found yourself in this passage.
Don't get oversensitive on me either. I love the wide diversity of folks in this body who are comfortable to pray out loud when the Spirit leads them. We are blessed, and I DO NOT sense in any way that those who bless this assembly with public prayer are doing it to impress an audience. Please, don't change a thing.
OK, I'm not quite done. If you've taken your thinking caps off and semi checked out, put 'em back on.
Because I think that just below the surface of the simplicity of these verses is a profound truth. So profound that I won't get to the bottom of it this morning. We'll visit this over and over in this church. Unless you run me off.
Why does going public in a theatrical show of religiosity, working an audience for their praise . . why does that bug God so much. Why is that an irritation to God?
Get ready for some truth that is hard to swallow. Counterintuitive.
We shouldn't be surprised by truths that are counterintuitive. We're fallen. We're broken. Our thinking machines are damaged by Adam's fall. The Bible warns us of this.
Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
Train yourself to not be alarmed by truth you read in this book that is counterintuitive. It doesn't seem right.
Ever wonder why the mega churches you've visitied are busy spreading frosting, but there's no cake. If they teach the Bible, it would empty the place! That's why.
We're going to be like the noble Berean's around here. I'm going to say stuff that's hard to digest, and you're not going to run me off. You're going to go home and dig in and study to prove whether what I say this book says is right or wrong.
Here's the premise that underlie's why the Pharisee's brand of self righteousness is unacceptable to God. God is jealous. ALL Glory from ALL of creation goes to Him. Any Glory that is misdirected to idols, is egregious sin.
Exodus 20:4 - 6 4"You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5"You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.…
So when a group of so-called religious people who claim the name of God are directing the glory away from God, to themselves, it is not less than idol worship.
The reason this is counterintuitive is because we don't like people who have to be front and center. Have to have all the pre-emminence. Do we? That's considered bad form. Not classy. We give those folks - air.
In fact, very often, I get embarassed - for them. I'll be like, yikes, do you have any idea how un-cool you are. "Look at ME! Look at ME!"
And yet, there is one person in the universe who it is totally right for Him to say "Look at ME!"
God created this universe, and all the others if there are any. And He created them to shine the glory of them . . back on Him. He created us. Spoke us into existence, for the purpose of radiating Glory back on Him with every fiber of our being, every moment, for all eternity.
Walk into a mega church, and preach that. You'll have about 4,000 people in an uproar saying, just a minute mister. I've been told that it's all about ME. The reason God is there is to make things better for ME.
I've got a universe of my own, and the center of it is ME and the whole purpose of me coming here and associating with this church and these other ME's is so I can learn how to stroke the Genie and get even more going for ME.
This thing with God and His jealousy for His Glory is not fashionable in American Evangilicalism. If you think I'm wrong, go out and talk to folks about this. The prevailing attitude will be; Get over yourself God. Who's going to worship a God who is a megalomaniac?
Wikipedia definition of megalomania; Megalomania is a psychopathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of power, relevance, omnipotence, and by inflated self-esteem.
That is ground zero for the atheists now. You should be embarrassed that you're worshipping someone who is a psychopathological megalomaniac.
He hates His enemies. He kills everybody that's in His way. There is therefore, nothing in the realms of human imaginings that is more uncool than the Hebrew God.
Go back to that wikipedia definition. It's actually helpful. Megalomania is a psychopathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of power, relevance, omnipotence, and by inflated self-esteem.
Let's take it apart. Here's a premise for you. What if the power is real? What if it isn't a delusional fantasy? What if He is the most relevant being. Period. IN fact all other beings live and breathe and have whatever relevance they do have, in Him! What if He IS omnipotent. What if His self esteem is . . correct. Then; He is not psychopathelogical. He is God. Above all others. High above all!
Men are driven by the pursuit of happiness. It drives everything we do. Paschal says even self murderers are ultimately driven by this pursuit.
We're broken, fallen, so our reasoning machine is all messed up. What if the pinnacle of happiness, what C. S. Lewis called Joy, with a capital J, is in worshipping this God that we were created to worship?
Does that sort of change things? If He's doing everything He can to nudge us and stear us into that counterintuitive place, worshipping Him, so we can be gloriously happy, does that change the way we should look at His jealousy?
I'm jealous for my kids. Even as adults. I pray constantly for them to make the right choices. I'm jealous for their best. That's a glorious kind of jealousy. And God is infinitly more jealous for us, because His love is infinitely above us.
Tom and Melissa Jennings scrambled to the top of Mt. Charleston the other day. Almost 12,000 feet. Ever done that? Maybe Mt. Wheeler. Or Mt. Whitney. Or Boundary peak. Most of us have experienced something like that. Even just standing at the rim of the Grand Canyon.
What do you experience? Why do you do that? Is it the exhilaration? Or is it the feeling of insignificance? Just for a moment, your heart goes in your throat, and you say, I know there's more.
I'm trying to get at something here, and we don't have a lot of words for this. C. S. Lewis called it Joy, with a capitol J which he described as an inconsolable longing. And he said once you've experienced that kind of Joy, which you have no control over, you'll want more.
He said, “A man’s physical hunger does not prove that that man will get any bread: he may die of starvation on a raft in the Atlantic. But surely a man’s hunger does prove that he comes of a race which repairs its body by eating, and inhabits a world where eatable substances exist.” 19 In other words, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
We are on a journey together, in this tiny little church in no-where'sville Nevada, a journey for Joy. And the highway that leads there is called; The Glory of God. I hope you'll come with me.
Jesus teaching here is profound. The reward. The treasure; is otherworldly. And the path there is not in being showily religious. It's in glorifying God, in your most secret innermost place. Your heart. Simple verses. Profundity; out of this world.
More in The Gospel of Matthew
March 26, 2017The Authority and Commission of Jesus Mt. 28:16 - 20
March 19, 2017Jesus IS Alive! The Tomb is Empty Mt. 28: 1 - 15
March 12, 2017The Burial of Jesus Mt. 27:55 - 66 pt. 2