- Sermon Notes
Intro: What am I doing wrong?
In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus addressed the inner attitudes of His followers. He used many examples beginning with the beatitudes, then addressed who His disciples were to be in the world (Salt and Light), He continued to highlight the importance of His word, and the surpassing righteousness that is only found in Him.
Jesus began challenging the way scripture was being interpreted by the religious leaders of His day. There was a standard of righteousness that was being put forth, but it was all about what things looked like on the surface, not the heart.
In Matthew 6:1-18, Jesus points His followers toward the importance of living for an audience of one, rather than for the fleeting approval and praise of man.
Read: Matthew 6:1-18
In these verses, we see three examples of what the Pharisees were doing to make sure their “righteousness” was seen by all. While they kept rules outwardly, they also made sure that people knew when they were praying, giving, and fasting.
While their public expressions may have been common, and may have looked good on the surface, Jesus wanted His followers to be sure they were living not for the applause or awe of man, but, for an audience of the One, who sees it all. True for those listening and true for us today.
The issue is not whether giving to the poor, prayer, and fasting are good to do, but rather, how the good things we do for the Lord should be gone about. Regarding the way the Pharisees were giving, praying, and fasting; Jesus started with some strong advice.
I. Check Your Motives
Matthew 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.
- There was a way in which the Pharisees were practicing righteousness in public, and here, Jesus gives a warning about practicing righteousness before people in order to be noticed.
- To “beware” means to be cautious, or careful of something.
- Jesus is warning about practicing a form of devotion to God whose purpose is to show off before men.
- If that is what they are doing, then the only purpose is to please people, rather than God.
- Jesus essentially says, if that is the reason why you are doing what you are doing, “you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 5:16, Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
- So, which is it? Yes.
- At first glance, these words seem to contradict what Jesus told His disciples earlier in His sermon, but these verses are not in conflict at all.
- What is the difference? Motives!
- In Matthew 5:16, Jesus gave us the correct motive: To live as those who have been saved by grace, changed by that grace, and willing to live our lives making sure that when people see the way we live and what God has done in us, they would “give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
- The motive there is for people to come to know Jesus by the way we live for Him in this world.
- Doing good things so that we will be noticed, or praised by men, that is the wrong motive.
Proverbs 16:2, All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives.
- The Lord weighs the motives behind what we do.
Illus. Which table?
- There was a way in which the people of the day were letting others know that they were doing good works.
- They were doing good things, but for the wrong reasons.
Amos 5:21-24, I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with your noise of songs! I will not listen to your music of harps. But let justice roll like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream. (NIV)
- All of the religious acts had been prescribed by God, however, they weren’t being done in sincerity, essentially, the people were “playing church.”
- They were going through the ritual, but there was no reality. Because these things were being done for the wrong reasons, with the wrong heart, they were not acceptable to God.
- Jesus is highlighting for His followers, that their motives matter. “Beware of doing righteous deeds for all the wrong reasons.”
A.Don’t be like the hypocrites
- There was a way in which the “hypocrites” were giving, praying and fasting.
- The word “hypocrite” finds it origin from the Greek word hypokrites, which means an actor, stage-player, or mask-wearer.
- Hypokrites were actors in the Greek theater who wore masks. The masks were exaggerated and large to mark which character they were playing.
- This word took on an extended meaning to refer to any person wearing a figurative mask, or, were pretending to be something they were not.The phrase “two-faced” comes from the same idea.
- Concerning, giving, prayer, fasting; Jesus said, “don’t do as the hypocrites do.”
How were they giving?
- According to Matthew 6:2, they were sounding a trumpet in the synagogues and streets, so that men would honor them.
- Whether literal or figurative, we cannot be sure, however, we do know that they were calling attention to themselves, or “blowing their own horn.”
Illus. For the record, these are being given!
- Like actors in a play, the Pharisees were giving their gifts in front of an audience, to be honored by men.
How were they praying?
- According to Matthew 6:5, they would stand and pray aloud in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.
- The Pharisees had designated times of prayer at 9am, 12pm, and 3pm.
Daniel 6:10, He entered his house, and he continued praying three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God.
- The Pharisees however, were not looking to seek the Lord, but, to be seen by men.
- While heading to the prayer meetings, they would stop on the street corners and offer long prayers for all to hear.
- They would head to the synagogue and do the same, for the very purpose of being seen by others and looked at as exceedingly righteous.
- They were mouthing words toward God where they would have the largest audience, with the purpose of impressing another.
- “Look how righteous they are!” is what others would say, but it was all for show.
Mark 7:6-7, Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: “This people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”
Illus. In the New Testament, some people made their living as professional mourners. They were paid to weep, wail, and tear their garments at funerals and other occasions of sadness. (Matt. 9:23)
- Their mourning was all a false show, just for display.
- The hypocritical Scribes and Pharisees were praying to attract attention and bring honor to themselves… it was all for show.
- According to Matthew 6:16, they were putting on a gloomy face and neglecting their appearance so that people would notice how famished they were, and take notice.
- The Pharisees fasted every Monday and Thursday.
- The reasoning for those specific days was that those were the days Moses made the two separate trips to receive the tablets of the law from God on Mt. Sinai.
- Interestingly, those two days were the major Jewish market days, when cities and towns were crowded with farmers, merchants and shoppers. Therefore, they were also the days in which public fasting would have the largest audiences.
- They would put on a gloomy face, neglect their appearance, wear old clothes, sometimes purposely soiled or old, dishevel their hair, throw some dirt on their face, etc.
- They would in a literal sense, “put on a show” like the hypocrites.
- While it is not a command in scripture, fasting is something that is good. The book of Acts records believers fasting prior to making important decisions (Acts 13:2; 14:23). It is often linked with prayer (Luke 2:37; 5:33). For direction (Ezra), and liberation.
- It is a way of saying “no” to the flesh, and “yes” to God. The focus is often on lack of food, but it should be a focus to take your eyes off the things of this world and focus on God.
- Jesus said, when you fast, comb your hair, brush your teeth, take a shower, don’t let people know.
- Why? Because it’s not unto man.
A.Remember who it’s all about
- Jesus said, when you give, when you pray, whenever you fast; don’t be like the hypocrites.
- When you give, don’t let your left hand know what the right hand is doing. When you pray, pray to your Father. When you fast, don’t change your appearance…your Father knows.
- Sometimes these things are seen, or are known, and that is alright. The point is, are you doing these things so that they are seen, or known, or for
Hebrews 4:13, Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
G. Campbell Morgan: Probably the vast majority of people are more influenced by what men will say, than by what God almighty thinks.
Are you living for an audience of One?