You may listen the audio of this sermon here.
Text: Matthew 6:1-4, 19-34
Prayer for Illumination
Almighty and Everlasting God, Your Word is truth and we need truth now more than ever. In a world that says there is no truth and anything goes, we need some solid ground to stand on, and that’s what Your Word gives us. As we look into Your Word, let us find truth, embrace the truth, and live the truth. In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
We’ve been in a series where we are looking at some spiritual disciplines. Two weeks ago, we talked about fasting, last week we talked about prayer, and this week giving. When we think about spiritual disciplines, we might not think about giving as being something that contributes to our spiritual life because we might tempted to think that giving simply a tangible act because most of what we give away are things that we can touch and feel.
If you remember last week when we talked about prayer, Jesus told us that there is an inappropriate way to pray, but then there’s an appropriate way to pray.
Two weeks ago, when we covered fasting, there’s was an inappropriate way for the people of God to fast, and then there was an appropriate way.
This week, the idea of giving is no different. There’s an inappropriate way to give, but then there’s an appropriate way.
So, what I would like to do is talk about our passage under four points: How We Shouldn’t Give (v. 1-2), How We Should Give (v. 3-4), Hindrances to Giving (v. 19-24), and Assurances for Giving (v. 25-34)
How Not to Give (v. 1-4)
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven.”
– Matthew 6:1, CSB
This is right in the middle of Jesus’ sermon on the Mount, and this is a point of transition in his speech.
- Remember, Jesus starts of talking about the beatitudes – “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted, blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.”
- Then Jesus starts talking about the law, and He says that are hard like “You have have heard it said ‘don’t commit adultery,’ but I tell you that if you look upon a woman lustfully, then you’ve already committed adultery in your heart.” And by saying this, Jesus isn’t adding to the law. Instead, he’s revealing the heart of the law.
- The Pharisees and the legalists of their day were trying to find loopholes in the law so they could still technically obey it, but still get away with doing whatever they wanted, and Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount is Him telling the religious people, “That’s not how this is going to work. You can’t get away with pretending to be righteous.” And this is where we find Jesus.
Matthew 6:1 is Jesus’ thesis statement for the next portion of this sermon.
- So, in this one verse you’ve got two things: an exhortation and a promise.
- Exhortation: “Don’t practice your righteousness publicly to be seen by others.”
- Promise: “If you do, there is no reward from your Father in heaven.”
Everything else in this chapter all rests on these two ideas.
“So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. – Matthew 6:2, CSB
I think when we read the Sermon on the Mount we don’t take it in the way Jesus’ audience initially took it in because we’re used to it. We’ve heard taught, preached, and read to us for a couple thousand years. We’ve read it over and over again to the point that I think sometimes we are inoculated to the revolutionary nature of what Jesus is saying.
- Jesus’ audience is used to seeing those who are more well off brag about their giving, they are used to seeing the priests pray in public use long, repetitive, drawn out prayers.
- And Jesus says, “You can pray, you can give, you can fast. These things aren’t bad in and of themselves, but the way we do them can be bad.”
When Jesus calls out the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23 for tithing off their spice racks, He doesn’t condemn for tithing on everything they have down to their spices, He condemns them for doing so while neglecting the other parts of the law, specifically those parts of the law that include loving their neighbors.
Jesus tells us that the most inappropriate way we could give is publicly brag about our giving.
- When we do that, we might prove that we can live without whatever we’re giving away, but what we can’t live without is pride.
- When the Pharisees and the religious people would brag about what they gave away, they weren’t actually giving anything away because they were getting something in return, and what they were getting was a pat on the back from everybody else. All they were doing was investing in their own ego boost.
In Luke 14, Jesus tells the Pharisees who invited him to dinner, “don’t invite your friends, family, or rich neighbors, because they might invite you back, and you would be repaid. On the contrary, when you host a banquet, invite those who are poor, maimed, lame, or blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you…” (Luke 14:12-14)
The Pharisees gave for the purpose of getting something back, and Jesus says that if we give like they do, then that’s all we’ll get in return – an ego boost, and when the ‘high’ of that wears off and we need more validation, we’ll give some more, and then toot our own horn and wait for more people to compliment us, and then that ‘high’ of an ego boost will wear off and the cycle will continue.
However, Jesus tells us that there’s an appropriate way to give.
How We Should Give (v. 3-4)
“But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” – Matthew 6:3-4, CSB
The beginning of verse 4 tells us that the end goal for our giving is for it to be done in secret.
- I think the only way for us to keep our motivations in check is if we give secretly.
That being said, we can’t approach verses 3 and 4 like a formula and think, “Well, I’d better make sure I give and not tell anybody so that I can get a blessing.”
- We talked about how the Pharisees would invest in their own egos. I think the same thing applies to us if all we want to do is make ourselves feel good about what we’ve done.
- Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that if you feel good about doing something good, then you’re doing it wrong, but if that’s the end goal for you, then that’s a form of selfishness.
“Christian giving is to be marked by self-sacrifice and self-forgetfulness, not by self-congratulation.” – John Stott
- Our end goal, our ultimate motivation for giving should always be to bring glory to God, and bring help to whomever we’re giving to.
Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God and love our neighbor. The ultimate question of our giving should be, “What’s my motivations for this? Where’s my heart?”
- On Sunday morning, when it comes time to take up the tithes and offerings are we giving joyfully or are just doing the math to make sure God gets His 10% cut so we can go happily about the rest of our week?
So, how should we give? We should give with our motivations in check, making sure that we are glorifying God, and not ourselves.
With that in mind the next question that I think is worth asking is, “What is it that generally stands in our way of giving?” If we look at Matthew 6:19-24, I believe we’ll find an answer.
Hindrances to Giving (v. 19-24)
“Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness, how deep is that darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” – Matthew 6:19-24, CSB
Jesus hits the nail right on the head in verse 24. The thing that really prevents us from giving the way we should is the fact that we are attached to what we’re supposed to be giving away, and Jesus tells us that if we’re more attached to our money than the purposes of God in using money, then we’re investing our treasures on earth and it’s all going to go to rot.
There’s an Old Testament parallel to this idea in the book of Haggai.
After the people of God returned from Babylonian exile, they began rebuilding their lives. They used their own energy and resources to build their own homes meanwhile the temple still sat in ruins from being destroyed 70 years earlier.
And if you read Haggai 1, this is God’s message.
“The word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” 5 Now, the Lord of Armies says this: “Think carefully about your ways:
6 You have planted much but harvested little.
You eat but never have enough to be satisfied.
You drink but never have enough to be happy.
You put on clothes but never have enough to get warm.
The wage earner puts his wages into a bag with a hole in it.”
7 The Lord of Armies says this: “Think carefully about your ways. 8 Go up into the hills, bring down lumber, and build the house; and I will be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the Lord. 9 “You expected much, but then it amounted to little. When you brought the harvest to your house, I ruined it. Why?” This is the declaration of the Lord of Armies. “Because my house still lies in ruins, while each of you is busy with his own house.
10 So on your account, the skies have withheld the dew and the land its crops.
11 I have summoned a drought on the fields and the hills, on the grain, new wine, fresh oil, and whatever the ground yields, on man and animal, and on all that your hands produce.” – Haggai 1:3-11, CSB
Once the people were free from exile they went about their lives as usual and they forgot about the worship of God.
- When they forgot about the worship of God, their lives became harder to live.
- The paycheck didn’t stretch as far as it normally did, they couldn’t keep groceries in house, etc. Overall, their lives became harder to manage, and it was all because they couldn’t give up their extra resources for the restoration of the house of God.
Jesus tells us that we either invest in things of heaven or the things of earth, and when we refuse to let go of our attachments, then we make the choice invest in the things of earth, and we’ll lose it anyway. The best thing we can do is be generous.
If I were to ask you who Stephen King is, I’m sure you could tell me about the fact that he’s a horror novelist, and about how a lot of his books have been made into award winning movies like The Shining, Fire Starter, and Shawshank Redemption.
- But, there might be some things about him you may not have known. For example, did you know Boston Red Sox fan? The Red Sox always appear somewhere in his novels.
- Do you know he’s a guitar player in a mediocre rock band made up of other famous authors? You don’t want to go on iTunes to get their music, believe me.
- Do you know that he’s a recovering alcoholic?
- Do you know that he almost lost his life a few years ago? He was walking along a country road in Maine, and a van hit him and knocked him into a ditch. His legs were so crushed the doctors considered amputating them. But he managed to pull through. Did you know that he’s an outspoken advocate of generosity? This caught my attention, and I couldn’t believe it: Stephen King, the horror novelist, advocates generosity?
I came across it reading excerpts from a speech he gave to the graduates of Vassar College. It was a commencement address shortly after his accident and recovery. He something that I believing every professing Christian needs to hear.
“I found out what “you can’t take it with you” means. I found out while I was lying in the ditch at the side of a country road covered with mud and blood and with the tibia of my right leg poking out the side of my jeans, like a branch of a tree taken down in a thunderstorm. I had a Mastercard in my wallet, but when you’re lying in a ditch with broken glass in your hair no one accepts Mastercard. We all know that life is ephemeral, but on that particular day and in the months that followed, I got a painful but extremely valuable look at life’s simple backstage truths.
We come in naked and broke. We may be dressed up when we go out, but we’re just as broke. Warren Buffet is going to go out broke. Bill Gates is going out broke. Tom Hanks is going out broke. Steve King, broke, not a crying dime. All the money you earn, all the stocks you buy, all the mutual funds you trade, all of that is mostly smoke and mirrors. So I want you to consider making your life one long gift to others. And why not? All you have is on loan anyway. All that lasts is what you pass on. We have the power to help, the power to change. And why should we refuse? Because we’re going to take it with us? Oh, please.
Right now we have the power to do great good for others. So I ask you to begin giving and to continue as you began. I think you’ll find in the end that you got far more than you ever had and did more good than you ever dreamed.”
Jesus puts things in perspective for us.
- Jesus reminds that all we have down here is just temporal stuff. We can use it get by, but we can’t horde it because it won’t do us any good.
The famous pastor and Bible teacher Ray Stedman said that he had picked up a hitchhiker one time and he was trying to witness to him, and the young man said, “I wish I was like my uncle,” and Pastor Ray said, “Why is that?”
The man replied that his uncle died a millionaire and Ray said, “No, he didn’t.”
The guy looked confused, and Ray said, “Who has the million now?” and the guy said, “Oh, I see what you mean.”
Solomon was probably the richest king in the Old Testament and as he got older he began to reflect on all his riches, power, and accomplishments and declared that it was all meaningless. Here’s what he says in Ecclesiastes 6:1-3 about wealth.
“Here is a tragedy I have observed under the sun, and it weighs heavily on humanity: 2 God gives a person riches, wealth, and honor so that he lacks nothing of all he desires for himself, but God does not allow him to enjoy them. Instead, a stranger will enjoy them. This is futile and a sickening tragedy. 3 A man may father a hundred children and live many years. No matter how long he lives, if he is not satisfied by good things and does not even have a proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he.” – Ecclesiastes 6:1-3, CSB
Basically, what Solomon is saying is that as long as you’re alive you’re only going to use up so many resources. You’re only going to need so much, and if just horde, then you’ll die and it will all go to someone else. You might as well give something away now so that you can witness other people’s enjoyment.
Finally, we come to the end of Matthew 6, we’ve seen How We Shouldn’t Give, How We Should Give, and Our Hindrances to Giving, but maybe we’re worried about what might happen if we give.
- Jesus addresses this issue at the end of Matthew 6, and one of the things I appreciate about Jesus is that he doesn’t tell us that we’re worrying over nothing. He doesn’t tell us are concerns aren’t valid, but He gives us some promises that we can stand on.
“Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? 27 Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. 30 If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t he do much more for you—you of little faith? 31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
– Matthew 6:25-34, CSB
In verse 31, Jesus addresses the things that we’re naturally going to worry about.
- “What will we eat?” – Appetites
- “What will we wear?” – Attire
And in response Jesus promises that He will feed us just like He feeds the birds, and that He will clothe us just like clothes the flowers with beauty.
So, the evidence that God will take care of us is right outside our backdoors, and not only is this evidence of how He will take care of us, but it’s also an example of how graciously He gives to us. He doesn’t have to clothe us, feed us, protect us, but He does.
- Growing up in church, they would sing an old chorus that said, “God didn’t have to do it, but He did.”
- God graciously gives to us, and so we should graciously give to others.
In the Bible, all throughout the New Testament, particularly in Paul’s letters, we see how the Apostle Paul tells us that we should love just God in Christ has loved us, we should forgive just as God in Christ has forgiven us.
- Whether the world realizes it or not, they operate under the old law of God because almost everyone (even if they deny God’s existence) seems to operate by “an eye for an eye” mentality, but the Christian life isn’t about treating others the way they treat you, the Christian life is about treating others the way God has treated you.
My grandparents live in Dover, and they have a large wooded area around their backyard and the squirrels, the birds, and the deer have no reason to starve my grandparent’s house. My grandpa has feeders of every size, shape, and quantity.
While he was in hospital back in November he was worried so bad that the squirrels weren’t going to get fed that Brittany and I had to go over there and put corn on all the feeders, and that the bird feeders were full of seed.
If you see an animal, you can tell if it’s been to my grandpa’s house because all the woodland creatures within a 2 and a half mile radius are morbidly obese.
And do you know what Jesus says to me in this passage? My Father in Heaven will take care of me just as much as my grandpa takes care of the animals that come into his yard and then some, and He’ll take care of you too. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, sometimes life is hard and we feel like if we open our hands to give then life will be even harder, but Lord, You promise that if we give You will take care of us, and Your care and Your provision is our reward. Lord, change our hearts that so that we can see You as our reward. Let our hearts melt before You so that You can shape them into what You would have them to be. In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.