Warnings surround us everywhere we go. In workplaces especially, there are acronyms everywhere, telling how to do pretty much everything. From how to say hello, to how to pick up a box.
Road signs, which some see and some don’t, tell us helpful information about what we can and cannot do.
Health warnings, allergy warnings. “Danger Will Robinson, Danger!”.
In our spiritual life, there are many things we should take heed of, and Jesus is about to point some out.
Having just asked His followers to strive for perfection (5:48), and being fully aware of our tendency towards self-deception and self-righteousness, He issues a very strong warning, ‘Beware of practicing your righteousness before others’ .
Be perfect, but be careful. ( Carson)
What is that we are to be wary of? Why is Christ so adamant that we should not perform public acts of righteousness when He has so clearly outlined for us already a very counter-cultural way of living that will clearly make us stand out?!
6:1 Beware of P.D.R. ( Public Displays of Righteousness)
This marks another ‘hinge’ in the Sermon on the Mount. How we interpret 6:1 will set us up as to how we interpret the rest of the sermon, and even what has gone before.
If we think of the last section being about ‘better righteousness’ (than self-righteousness) ( 5:20), we would see this part as being about ‘secret righteousness’. ( 6:4,6:6, 6:18).
The ‘better righteousness’ outlined from 5:20ff leads to displays of our ethical ( horizontal) relationships. Chapter 6 onwards outlines a ‘secret righteousness’ which leads to a deepening of our spiritual ( vertical) relationship with God.
Young people have a strong aversion to PDA’s ( public displays of affection),when it comes from the parents. It can be downright awkward and embarrassing!
Jesus has a big issue with PDRs!
Matthew 6:1 in KJV may lead us to think only giving alms before men is the issue, but majority of texts, and the context, point out the premise of “ Beware of practicing your righteousness before men…”, is the main point Jesus is making, and He then goes on to give several instructions about our spiritual disciplines:
1- our giving and acts of charity v. 2-4
2- our prayer life v. 5-15
3- our fasting v.16-18
4- our treasures of the heart v. 19-24
5- our worries of the mind v.25-34
If the antitheses in previous section point out the bad ( public sins) we do because of the sin in our hearts ( private sins) , than the explicit commands here in this section point out to us the good things we can do in public while still having wrong hearts motives.
With both, there is no getting around the fact that Christ is definitely concerned with our relationships and our behaviors before men, but ultimately, more pointedly, He is very concerned with our heart before God.
Whether we are up to no good because we don’t care about righteousness, or whether we are up to ‘good’ because it makes us look good, and not because we are worried about what God wants of us, both are just as bad!
True acts of righteousness are not performed for the benefit of others. Or for our own benefit. True acts of righteousness are not even ‘performed’ in the acting sense of the term. We do not ‘do’ our spiritual disciplines to be seen. When we are seen to be doing them, this is a good thing. We are to do them, that is clear! ( WHEN YOU….). But we are not to do anything in order to be seen by men alone.
Jesus is explicit – don’t be like the hypocrites…(6:2, 6:5, 6:16). The biggest danger of ‘acting’ out ‘your’ righteousness is not that you might fool others, although that is the main aim of it all, but the greater danger is that you will fool yourself.
By acting righteous, you may just convince yourself that you are.
You may just well be the loudest, proudest, biggest, bestest, most righteousest, person on the planet. You may just be right about yourself.
But your righteous deeds are filthy rags. Polluted garments. Your righteousness is self-righteousness and it stinks from a mile away.
If you are to be genuinely obedient to God. If you desire to be genuinely holy, and to bring Him glory by how you live, you had better be shy about it.
Any act of righteousness had better be so shy, that when people see you do it, they don’t see you.
‘Humility is so shy, that when you start talking about it, it leaves the room……’
Jesus is outlining the very important fact that God does not appreciate or accept any showiness. He doesn’t accept any righteousness from us, we have none to show off!
Our righteousness, is not for our glory, it’s for Him.
6:1b gives us a very stern warning.
If you do seek to act in a way to be seen by men, just for the sake of your own fame, we will have no reward in heaven before the One Who sees everything!
“ The more you have earthly perspective, the less you will see of God’s glory, and the fewer your rewards in Heaven.” – Osborne
– v. 2-4 When you give to the needy…..don’t:
– blow your own horn!
Giving is supposed to be a private act of worship.
It completely defeats the purpose of charity if you give to get.
But this is what the hypocrites were doing. They gave so they could get.
By Jesus’ time, almsgiving and righteousness were one and the same thing. There’s no accident that this is the first on the list. It’s the most obvious, though everything was being done to be obvious, but giving is one of the most visible things you can do and be seen to do. Anybody can pray. Anybody can fast. Not everyone can give ‘ostentatiously’.
‘If my giving outdoes your giving, I’m clearly more righteous than you.’
When you announce your gift, you lose your right to claim you are doing because God told you to, or to claim that you are concerned for the cause you are giving to. It amounts to all noise, and no substance.
Sound no trumpet, and expect no praise!
“ Our piety is part of our relationship with God and should never be done to impress others.” – Osborne
When you give with this sort of ‘loud’ attitude, it doesn’t matter how much you give, it will be worthless.
v2-4 When you give to the needy…..do:
do it secretly
When you do give, it should be done so secretly, you don’t even notice you!
Do let your left know what your right hand is doing…you can’t even applaud yourself, when your hands are that far apart! Those of us with poor hand-eye coordination skills should be thankful our weakness can be redeemed here!
do it for your Father’s praise and reward
Public giving for public praise receives earthly applause. Private giving for no earthly reward receives eternal reward.
If you give for men’s praise, you may well get it. You can pay the trumpeters, or be your own ‘one-man-band’, and people will notice. You can hire a PR firm to handle your PDRs. You may even get the applause you are so desperate for. What then?
After you get what you want, what do you go after next? Where does it end? Will you spend a lifetime attempting to get people to notice you?
That sounds exhausting.
Rewards from the Father are so much better. He gives us good things. He has already granted us all things through His Son. People might miss the moment when you try to show off. They will miss when you give shyly. They won’t miss the moment when God rewards you openly for being faithful privately.
There’s no missing though when people have received God’s blessing.
The earthly applause of men is over before it starts. You’ll need more before you go much further down the road. When you pay for praise, you’ll get what you pay for. You pay, they praise, transaction over.
The applause of the Father. Now that is deafening. It lasts forever. Whether you are rewarded ‘openly’ or not is not the point. The point is not that you are rewarded, the point is that the reward is the rewarder. You get Him. That is overwhelming, and for those who are in Christ, clothed in His righteousness, secure in God’s love, it is incredibly affirming. God’s presence is the ultimate blessing.
Your acts of charity, when done without pretense, are seen by the Only One that counts.
The kind of giving we are being called to is selfless, sacrificial, costly.
You may ask the question – how much do I give?
Tithing raises more than a few eyebrows if it’s mentioned from the pulpit.
The biblical principle of the tithe is certainly abused in many churches.I have seen it firsthand.Uni students going broke as multiple offerings were taken up as the ‘pastor’ of a church, dressed in a nice, tailored suit, on a flashy stage, who drive a fancy car, asked for more funds from people with nothing to give for a new church building they didn’t need. Pledge drives can drive you around the block in guilt and shame.
But we should not use the abuse of good biblical principles put us off applying them correctly ourselves.
A tithe is great place to start for those who are established in their faith, in life, and in their community.
2 Corinthians 8:1-15 gives us a strong case for New Testament church style giving.
The amount is not the issue. The heart behind the giving, that is what has the attention of Jesus. Man looks on the outward appearance, The Lord looks on the heart.
You may be the biggest and most silent giver financially to the church. You don’t do it to be noticed or to be praised. But you may do it to be lazy. Finance is only the beginning of how we should give of ourselves to others. Don’t give generously to ‘get out’ of other obligations of service to your church or your broader community. Whatever you have, is The Lord’s. This includes both your finances and your time and giftings. Give Him what is rightfully His.
You may be the smallest giver. You may only have a couple of coins to your name. You are more likely to either want to hang on to it dearly, or maybe you are more likely to trust ostentatiously because you can’t give ostentatiously. Again, whatever you have, is The Lord’s.
God rewards those who give out of their poverty. ( Mark 12:44).
What have you given in service to God this week that has cost you something? This month? This year?
The kind of giving Jesus is speaking of is inspired by the greatest selfless act ever performed.
Give like nobody is looking.
Give from a heart filled with wonder for the God Who has blessed you abundantly above all that you could ask or think.
Model the giving of Christ. Give yourself.