“Emmanuel’s Benevolence” – Matthew 6:1-4

February 8th, 2015

Matthew 6:1-4

“Emmanuel’s Benevolence”


Service Orientation:  Whenever Jesus warns us to be careful, we would be wise to heed His warning.   Jesus warns us to carefully analyze our motives when we give to others.   Do we give out of love for God or out of  love for ourselves?


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. —  Matthew 6:1-4


Background Information:

  • The teachings of Mt 5:16 and 6:1 are often thought to conflict with each other because it is not recognized that they relate to different sins. The discrepancy is only imaginary.  In the first passage Jesus is dealing with cowardice, whereas in the second He is dealing with hypocrisy.  A.B. Bruce gives the helpful explanation, “We are to show when tempted to hide and hide when tempted to show.”  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 1-7, 357-358)
  • (6:1) Prosecho (beware) means to hold, or take hold of, something and pay attention to it, especially in the sense of being on guard. The scribes, Pharisees, and other hypocrites are warned by Jesus to beware of the religious activities in which they had such pride and confidence.  He was about to show them again how worthless, meaningless, and unacceptable to God these activities were.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 1-7, 353-354)
  • (6:1) Theaomai (to be noticed) is related to the term from which we get theater. It has in mind a spectacle to be gazed at.  In other words, Jesus is warning about practicing a form of righteousness (dikaiosune, acts of religious devotion in general) whose purpose is to show off before men.  Such religion is like a play; it is not real life but acting.  It does not demonstrate what is in the minds and hearts of the actors, but is simply a performance designed to make a certain impression on those who are watching.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 1-7, 354)
  • (6:2) A hupokrites (hypocrite) originally was a Greek actor who wore a mask that portrayed in an exaggerated way the role that was being dramatized. For obvious reasons the term came to be used of anyone who pretended to be what he was not.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 1-7, 354)
  • One of Satan’s most common and effective ways of undermining the power of the church is through hypocrisy. Hypocrisy, therefore, is a great peril to the church, and it comes in two forms.  The first is that of nonbelievers masquerading as Christians.  The second is that of true believers who are sinful but pretend to be spiritual.  The warning Jesus gives here applies to both groups.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 1-7, 354-355)
  • (6:2) Three times Jesus uses the phrase, as the Revised Standard Version has it: “Truly I say to you, they have their reward” (Mt 6:2, 5, 16). It would be better to translate it:  “They have received payment in full.”  The word that is used in the Greek is the verb apechein, which was the technical business and commercial word for receiving payment in full.  It was the word which was used on receipted accounts.  (William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew Volume 1 Revised Edition, 186)
  • We may as well realize at the outset that this chapter 6 is again a very searching one; indeed, we can go further and say that it is a very painful one. I sometimes think that it is one of the most uncomfortable chapters to read in the entire Scriptures.  It probes and examines and holds a mirror up before us, and it will not allow us to escape.  There is no chapter which is more calculated to promote self-humbling and humiliation than this particular one.  But thank God for it.  The Christian should always be anxious to know himself.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies on the Sermon on the Mount, 291)
  • In the first verse He lays down the general principle governing the religious life of the Christian. Having done that, He goes on to give us three illustrations of that principle, in the matters of almsgiving, praying and fasting.  There, ultimately, is the whole of one’s religious life and practice.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies on the Sermon on the Mount, 291)

To the Jew there were three great cardinal works of the religious life, three great pillars on which the good life was based–almsgiving, prayer and fasting.  Jesus would not for a moment have disputed that; what troubled him was that so often in human life the finest things were done from the wrong motives.  (William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew Volume 1 Revised Edition, 185)


The questions to be answered are . . . Why is Jesus concerned that we discern the motive for our “acts of righteousness”?   What does it matter as long as we are doing them?


Answers: If we are not doing them out of love for God and for His glory and honor, then, we are more than likely doing them for our own self-promotion.   Our Father in heaven will reward us in the future if we do what we do for His sake.  If we do what we do for our sake, what we get here and now is all there is.


C.S. Lewis wisely wrote in an essay entitled ‘The weight of glory’: ‘We must not be troubled by unbelievers when they say that this promise of reward makes the Christian life a mercenary affair.  There are different kinds of reward.  There is the reward which has no natural connection with the things you do to earn it, and is quite foreign to the desires that ought to accompany those things.  Money is not the natural reward of love; that is why we call a man mercenary if he marries a woman for the sake of her money.  But marriage is the proper reward for a real lover, and he is not mercenary for desiring it.’  Similarly we might say that a silver cup is not a very suitable reward for a schoolboy who works hard, whereas a scholarship at the university would be.  C.S. Lewis concludes his argument: ‘The proper rewards are not simply tacked on to the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation.’

What, then, is the ‘reward’ which the heavenly Father gives the secret giver?  It is neither public nor necessarily future.  It is probably the only reward which genuine love wants when making a gift to the needy, namely to see the need relieved.  When through his gifts the hungry are fed, the naked clothed, the sick healed, the oppressed freed and the lost saved, the love which prompted the gift is satisfied.  Such love (which is God’s own love expressed through man) brings with it its own secret joys, and desires no other reward.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 131-2)


“The genuine can be tested and God will test it so that its genuineness can be proved.”  (Steve Brown, Living Free, 67)


The Word for the Day is . . . Reward


The overall application of this is that any promise we make, whether we call God as a witness or not, is made in the presence of God and must be kept, because as Christians, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, God’s name is automatically binding upon us, whether we verbalize it or not.  Any Christian life that is not radically sincere and truthful misuses the name of the Lord our God.  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 91)


And then we must convey that to the world.  Authentically.  I am reminded of the words of the great nineteenth-century Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, who wrote in a personal letter, “Attack me, I do this myself, but attack me rather than the path I follow and which I point out to anyone who asks me where I think it lies.  If I know the way home and am walking along it drunkenly, is it any less the right way because I am staggering from side to side!”  (David Kinnaman, Unchristian, 66)


What does Jesus want us to learn at this point in the Sermon on the Mount?

I-  Jesus is expecting His children to give to the needy.   (Mt 6:2; see also: Ex 23:10-11; Lv 19:10; 25:35; Dt 15:10-14; Ps 106:3; Prv 19:17; 29:7; Mk 12:41-44; 2 Cor 9:6-7; ; 1 Tm 6:18-19; Ja 1:27)


“Faith that does not act is a faith that is just an act.”  (Lois Evans and Jane Rubietta,  Stones of Remembrance)


A giving Savior should have giving disciples.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries–Matthew, 36)


Giving is not a matter of how much money one has but of how much love and care is in the heart.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 1-7, 359)


“They do not commit adultery nor fornication, they do not bear false witness, they do not deny a deposit, nor covet what is not theirs: they honor father and mother; they do good to those who are their neighbors…They love one another:  and from the widows they do not turn away their countenance:  and they rescue the orphan from him who does him violence:  and he who has gives to him who had not, without grudging…When one of their poor passes away from the world, and any of them sees him, then he provides for his burial according to his ability; and if they hear that any of their number is imprisoned or oppressed for the name of their Messiah, all of them provide for his needs, and if it is possible that he may be delivered, they deliver him.  If there is among them a man that is poor or needy, and they have not an abundance of necessaries, they fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with their necessary food”  (The Apology of Aristides, 48-9).  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount–Matthew 5-7, 153)


By the first century there was a well-organized system of relief for the poor based in the synagogues, providing something of what our modern state-sponsored welfare systems aim to offer.  The funding of this system depended on contributions from members of the community, some of them laid down under the regulations for the “tithe for the poor,” but also involving a great deal of private initiative, which could reach such an extent that there were rabbinic regulations to prevent a man from impoverishing himself and his family by giving away more than 20 percent of his income.  (R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, 235)


Giving to the poor is demanded by the laws of God (Ex 23:10, 11; 30:15; Lv 19:10; Dt 15:7-11), the exhortations of the prophets (Jer 22:16; Dn 4:27; Amos 2:6, 7), and the teaching of Jesus (Mt 7:12; Lk 6:36, 38; cf. 21:1-4; Jn 13:29; Gal 6:2).  It also pertains to the expression of gratitude for benefits received.  In this very sermon Jesus has already pointed out that it is exactly the merciful who “shall have mercy shown to them” (5:7).  We are not surprised therefore when here in 6:2 he takes such charitable giving for granted.  (William Hendriksen, Matthew, 320)


Yet, in Jesus’ day the act of almsgiving “had been carried to absurd [and un-Biblical] extremes by rabbinic tradition.”  For example, according to the apocryphal book of Tobit, “It is better to give to charity than to lay up gold.  For charity will save a man from death; it will expiate any sin” (12:8; cf. Sirach 3:14, 15, 30).  Why give?  According to second temple Judaism, it was to atone for sin.  This tainted theology explains why, when Jesus taught that “only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven” (19:23), his disciples were baffled (19:25).  In their minds, it was easy for a rich man to enter the kingdom because such a man could essentially buy his way in by simply giving to the poor.  (R. Kent Hughes, Matthew–All Authority in Heaven and on Earth, 149)


Jesus gives this apparently absurd illustration about the two hands “to emphasize the intense privacy that should be present when we give to help others.”  I say “apparently absurd” because any athlete knows that if you train your muscles–say to swing a bat when a ball is coming eighty miles per hour over home plate–you do not stop to think about what you are doing.  You just do it.  The same is true of a musician who fingers, because of much practice, have remembered exactly what notes to play and when.  It becomes second nature.  Similarly, our giving is to be second nature, like a trained moral muscle.  (R. Kent Hughes, Matthew–All Authority in Heaven and on Earth, 150)


There was a rabbinic saying: “Greater is he who gives alms than he who offers all sacrifices.”  Almsgiving stood first in the catalogue of good works.

It was then natural and inevitable that the man who desired to be good should concentrate on almsgiving.  The highest teaching of the Rabbis was exactly the same as the teaching of Jesus.  They too forbade ostentatious almsgiving.  “He who gives alms in secret,” they said, “is greater than Moses.”  The almsgiving which saves from death is that “when the recipient does not know from whom he gets it, and when the giver does not know to whom he gives it.”  There was a Rabbi who, when he wished to give alms, dropped money behind him, so that he would not see who picked it up.  “It were better,” they said, “to give a man nothing, than to give him something, and to put him to shame.”  (William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew Volume 1 Revised Edition, 187-188)


Certainly all Jews were expected to give to the poor, to pray and to fast, and all devout Jews did so.  Evidently Jesus expected his disciples to do the same.  For he did not begin each paragraph, ‘If you give, pray, fast, then this is how you should do it’ but ‘When you do so (2, 5, 16).  He took it for granted that they would.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 127)


It is true, our alms-deeds do not deserve heaven; but it is as true that we cannot go to heaven without them.  It is pure religion (Ja 1:27), and will be the test at the great day; Christ here takes it for granted that his disciples give alms, nor will he own those that do not.  (MacDonald Publishing Company, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible–Vol. V., 68)


Notice that this passage does not state that it is wrong to give systematically, use church envelopes, or receive tax-deductible receipts.  One thing it does teach is that one should not give by those means only.  There are ample examples of systematic giving in Scripture to build or repair the temple and to provide for the needs of the underprivileged, for example.  Planned giving is certainly biblical and encouraged, but all of our giving should not be limited to our predetermined plan or system.  In addition, we are not to congratulate ourselves on how much we give, whether in relation to others, or just in our own mind.  (Edward Hinson, Matthew–The King is Coming, 66)


II-  If we give, by faith, for our heavenly Father’s sake He will reward us.  (Mt 6:3-4; see also: Gn 15:1; Prv 24:12; Mt 5:12, 46; 6:5-6, 16, 18; 10:41-42; 16:27; 25:14-46; Mk 9:41; 10:21; Lk 6:22-23, 35; Rom 2:10; 1 Cor 3:8-14; Gal 6:6-10;  Eph 6:8; Phil 4:15-18; Col 3:23-24; 1 Tm 6:18-19; Heb 10:35; 11:6, 26; 2 Jn 1:8)


Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus had specifically commanded, “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” (Mt 5:16).  The question is not whether or not our good works should be seen by others, but whether they are done for that end.  When they are done “in such a way” that attention and glory are focused on our “Father who is in heaven” rather than on ourselves, God is pleased.  But if they are done to be noticed by men (6:1), they are done self-righteously and hypocritically and are rejected by God.  The difference is in purpose and motivation.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 1-7, 357)


God will not miss giving a single reward.  “There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Heb 4:13).  The Lord knows our hearts, our attitudes, and our motives, and every reward that is due us will be given.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 1-7, 360)


Paul’s great principle here is that money spent on the body–to clothe, feed, house, or entertain it–while it has value for this life, has no lasting fruit for eternity.  Money spent in obedience to the Lord, to spread the gospel and to meet the needs of those who are poor and suffering, will have results not only in this life but in eternity also.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount–Matthew 5-7, 156)


We will only be as sanctified as we are aware of God’s ever-seeing sight.  (R. Kent Hughes, Matthew–All Authority in Heaven and on Earth, 147)


It is an obvious rule of life that any action which achieves nothing is futile and meaningless.  A goodness which achieves no end would be a meaningless goodness.  As has been very truly said:  “Unless a thing is good for something, it is good for nothing.”  Unless the Christian life has an aim and a goal which is a joy to obtain, it becomes largely without meaning.  He who believes in the Christian way and the Christian promise cannot believe that goodness can have no result beyond itself.

To banish all rewards and punishments from the idea of religion is in effect to say that injustice has the last word.  It cannot reasonably be held that the end of the good man and the end of the bad man are one and the same.  That would simply mean that God does not care whether men are good or not.  It would mean, to put it crudely and bluntly, that there is no point in being good, and no special reason why a man should live one kind of life instead of another.  To eliminate all rewards and punishments is really to say that in God there is neither justice nor love.  (William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew Volume 1 Revised Edition, 180)


He who is in love is always in debt; the last thing that enters his mind is that he has earned a reward.  If a man has a legal view of life, he may think constantly in terms of reward that he has won; if a man has a loving view of life, the idea of reward will never enter his mind.  (William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew Volume 1 Revised Edition, 182)


The first of the Christian rewards is satisfaction.  The doing of the right thing, obedience to Jesus Christ, the taking of his way, whatever else it may or may not bring, always brings satisfaction.  It may well be that, if a man does the right thing, and obeys Jesus Christ, he may lose his fortune and his position, he may end in gaol or on the scaffold, he may finish up in unpopularity, loneliness and disrepute, but he will still possess that inner satisfaction, which is greater than all the rest put together.  (William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew Volume 1 Revised Edition, 183)


A most appropriate remedy is thus applied for curing the disease of ambition, when he reminds us to fix our eye on God:  for this banishes from our minds, and will utterly destroy, all vain-glory.  In the second clause, which immediately follows, Christ reminds us that, in looking for the reward of good works, we must wait patiently till the last day, the day of resurrection.  Thy Father, says he, shall reward thee openly.  But when?  It will be, when the dawn of the last day shall arise, by which all that is now hidden in darkness shall be revealed.  (John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 311)


It is sometimes rewarded in temporal things with plenty (Prv 11:24, 25; 19:17); security from want (Prv 28:27; Ps 37:21, 25); succour in distress (Ps 41:1, 2); honor and a good name, which follow those most that least covet them, Ps 112:9.  However, it shall be recompensed in the resurrection of the just (Lk 14:14), in eternal riches.  (MacDonald Publishing Company, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible–Vol. V., 68)


The real key to success of this kind of giving is found in the phrase “your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (v. 4).  Giving by faith, out of a cheerful heart, depends on our total confidence in the fact that God does indeed see us and know our needs.  God sees in secret that which no person may observe and rewards His own.  The woman who gave her two mites gave not to be seen by people, but simply by God.  The reason why she could give 100 percent of her income was because she had learned that God was able to supply 100 percent of her needs (Lk 21:1-4; cf. Mk 12:41-44).  It took faith on her part to give while trusting God wholly.  (Edward Hinson, Matthew–The King is Coming, 66)


III-  If we give for our own sake, what we receive here and now, is all the reward we can expect.  (Mt 6:1-2)  


There are many more subtle trumpets people can use to call attention to their good works.  When they make a point of doing publicly what they could easily do privately, they behave like the hypocrites, not like God’s children.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 1-7, 356)


Preachers constantly exhort and admonish people to grow their faith to a higher level of obedience.  So much pressure is put on Christians to grow spiritually that sometimes they fear being rejected if others realize they are not quite as righteous as they ought to be.  (RC Sproul, Matthew, 132)


People ought to see our good works.  However, here in 6:1-18 he warns that this light that others will notice needs to point in the right direction–not to ourselves but to our Father in Heaven (cf. 5:16b).  (R. Kent Hughes, Matthew–All Authority in Heaven and on Earth, 146)


No one today wants to admit that people are basically sinful, yet why would any government offer tax deductions if people are basically good?  Won’t people give from the goodness of their heart or simply based on the size of the need?  Our government smartly says, “I doubt it.”  People give to get–to get publicity, to earn the esteem of others, to save on taxes, etc.  (R. Kent Hughes, Matthew–All Authority in Heaven and on Earth, 149-50)


If a man is always seeking reward, always reckoning up that which he believes himself to be earning, then he will in fact miss the reward for which he is seeking.  And he will miss it because he is looking at God and looking at life in the wrong way.  A man who is always calculating his reward is thinking of God in terms of a judge or an accountant, and above all he is thinking of life in terms of law.  He is thinking of doing so much and earning so much.  He is thinking of life in terms of a credit and debit balance sheet.  He is thinking of presenting an account to God and of saying, “I have done so much.  Now I claim my reward.  The basic mistake of this point of view is that it thinks of life in terms of law, instead of love.  (William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew Volume 1 Revised Edition, 182)


We are not to be self-conscious in our giving, for our self-consciousness will readily deteriorate into self-righteousness.  So subtle is the sinfulness of the heart that it is possible to take deliberate steps to keep our giving secret from men while simultaneously dwelling on it in our own minds in a spirit of self-congratulation.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 130)


Altruism has been displaced by a distorted egotism.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 130)


If we keep accounts and plan our giving, as conscientious Christians should, we are bound to know how much we give away.  We cannot very well close our eyes while writing out our checks!  Nevertheless, as soon as the giving of a gift is decided and done, it will be in keeping with this teaching of Jesus that we forget it.  We are not to keep recalling it in order to gloat over it, or to preen ourselves on how generous, disciplined or conscientious our giving may have been.  Christian giving is to be marked by self-sacrifice and self-forgetfulness, not by self-congratulation.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 130-1)


In places where streets or roads met, and in public situations, where large assemblies were wont to be held, they distributed alms to the poor.  There was evident ostentation in that practice:  for they sought crowded places, that they might be seen by multitudes, and, not satisfied with this, added even the sound of trumpets.  They pretended, no doubt, that it was to call the poor, as apologies are never wanting:  but it was perfectly obvious, that they were hunting for applause and commendation.  Now, when our service is rendered to the eyes of men, we do not submit our life to the judgment an approbation of God.  Justly, therefore, does Christ say, that those persons, who exhibit themselves in this manner, have their reward:  for they whose eyes are held by such vanity cannot look upon God.  (John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 309)


Now the doom that Christ passes upon this is very observable; Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.  At first view this seems a promise–If they have their reward they have enough, but two words in it make it a threatening.

It is a reward, but it is their reward; not the reward which God promises to them that do good, but the reward which they promise themselves, and a poor reward it is; they did it to be seen of men, and they are seen of men; they chose their own delusions with which they cheated themselves, and they shall have what they chose.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible–Vol. V, 69)


It signifies a receipt in full.  What rewards the godly have in this life are but in part of payment; there is more behind, much more; but hypocrites have their all in this world, so shall their doom be; themselves have decided it.  The world is but for provision to the saints, it is their spending money; but it is pay to hypocrites, it is their portion.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible–Vol. V, 69)


But, Charles Hodge so aptly said, “Christian humility does not consist in denying what there is of good in us; but in an abiding sense of ill-desert, and in the consciousness that what we have of good is due to the Grace of God.”  Humility, then, gives credit where credit is due, namely to the working of Holy Spirit in our lives. Pride, which is the opposite of humility, seeks to find within ourselves some innate goodness or even to ascribe to our own commitment or faithfulness the cause of any blessings of God in our lives.  Pride might say, for example, “Because I have been faithful and obedient, God has blessed me”; whereas humility would say, “Because of God’s grace at work in me, I have been motivated and enabled to be faithful and obedient.”  (Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace, 99)


The only difference between Christians and pagans is that Christians know the rules and we can fake it better than the pagans can.  – Steve Brown


Another significant antidote to hypocrisy (in addition to integrity and purity) is transparency.  On one level, hypocrisy is failing to acknowledge the inconsistencies in our life.  It is denial.  It is, as the Bible describes it, trying to remove a speck from someone else’s eye when you have a log in your own.  Living with integrity starts with being transparent.  (David Kinnaman, Unchristian, 54-5)


CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: What should be our response to Jesus’ message?


The ultimate choice is always the choice between pleasing self and pleasing God.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies on the Sermon on the Mount, 293)



A-  BEWARE:  Don’t fool yourself.  Do you do what you do because you love God and trust His promise to reward?  (Mt 6:19-20; 7:16-20; 12:33; Mk 10:21; Lk 6:43-44; Jn 15:1-16 ; 1 Cor ch 3)


The only fatal error is to pretend that we have found the life we prize.  (John Eldredge, The Journey of Desire, 14)


A man may give from a sense of duty.  (William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew Volume 1 Revised Edition, 188)


It was said of a great, but superior man:  “With all his giving he never gives himself.”  When a man gives, as it were, from a pedestal, when he gives always with a certain calculation, when he gives from a sense of duty, even a sense of Christian duty, he may give generously of things, but the one thing he never gives is himself, and therefore the giving is incomplete.  (William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew Volume 1 Revised Edition, 189)


A man may give from motives of prestige.  (William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew Volume 1 Revised Edition, 189)


A man may give simply because he has to.  (William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew Volume 1 Revised Edition, 190)


The most satisfying giving, and the giving that God blesses, is that which is done and forgotten.  It is done in love out of response to a need, and when the need is met the giver goes on about his business, not waiting for or wanting recognition.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 1-7, 357)


“Show when tempted to hide, hide when tempted to show.”  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Volume VII, 306)


Jesus’ words do not forbid record keeping, receipting, or reporting procedures used in good stewardship.  But he condemned practices to impress others.  Jesus’ followers should give generously, out of compassion, when there is a need.  God rewards such giving.  (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary–Matthew, 111)


The thing to be taken heed of is not the doing it ‘before men,’ which will often be obligatory, often necessary, and never in itself wrong, but the doing it ‘to be seen of them.’  Not the number of spectators, but the furtive glance of our eyes to see if they are looking at us, makes the sin.  We are to let our good works shine, that men may glorify our Father.  Pious souls are to shine, and yet be hid,–a paradox which can be easily solved by the obedient.  If our motive is to make God’s glory more visible, we shall not be seeking to be ourselves admired.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture–Ezekiel, Daniel, and The Minor Prophets–St. Matthew Chapters I to VIII, 221)


The question is not so much what the hand is doing (passing over some cash or a check) but what the heart is thinking while the hand is doing it.  There are three possibilities.  Either we are seeking the praise of men, or we preserve our anonymity but are quietly congratulating ourselves, or we are desirous of the approval of our divine Father alone.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 128)


We should realize that our supreme object in life should be to please God, to please Him only, and to please Him always and in everything.  If that is our aim we cannot go wrong.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies on the Sermon on the Mount, 294)


Do not announce to others in any shape or form what you are doing.  That is obvious.  But this is less obvious:  Do not even announce it to yourself.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies on the Sermon on the Mount, 298)


Self-conceit and self-complacency, and an adoring of our own shadow, are branches of pride, as dangerous as vain-glory and ostentation before men.  We find those had their good works remembered to their honor, who had themselves forgotten them:  When saw we thee an hungered, or athirst?  (MacDonald Publishing Company, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible–Vol. V., 69)


Spiritual exercise is like jogging.  You often do it gladly.  But you are no hypocrite if you jog even when you don’t feel like it.  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Assurances of the Heart, 261)


B-  BEWARE:  Don’t cheat yourself.  Do you do what you do because you trust and value human approval more than God’s?  (Prv 14:12; 16:25; Lk 16:15; Jn 5:41-47; 12:43; Rom 2:28-29)


The most exhausting thing in life is being insincere.   -Anne Morrow Lindbergh


As Larry Crabb has pointed out, pretending seems a much more reliable road to Christian maturity.  The only price we pay is a loss of soul, of communion with God, a loss of direction, and a loss of hope.  (John Eldredge, The Journey of Desire, 61)


A hypocrite is a person who. . . but who isn’t?   —Don Marquis


I know of only two alternatives to hypocrisy:  perfection or honesty.  Since I have never met a person who loves the Lord our God with all her heart, mind, and soul, and loves her neighbor as herself, I do not view perfection as a realistic alternative.  Our only option, then, is honesty that leads to repentance.  As the Bible shows, Gods’ grace can cover any sin, including murder, infidelity, or betrayal.  Yet by definition grace must be received, and hypocrisy disguises our need to receive grace.  When the masks fall, hypocrisy is exposed as an elaborate ruse to avoid grace.  (Philip Yancey, What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 204)


“When Jesus threatens to ‘spit’ the lukewarm Laodicean church people out of his mouth, the Greek verb literally means ‘vomit’ (emeo).  The picture may be shocking, but its meaning is clear, God cannot tolerate or ‘digest’ sin and hypocrisy.”  (John R. W. Stott,  The Cross of Christ, 108)


Those who give with selfish motives are deceptively giving to themselves and taking advantage of the needy’s circumstances to do it. — Pastor Keith


To outsiders the word Christian has more in common with a brand than a faith.  This shift of meaning in recent decades has been magnified by an increasing use of the term Christian to label music, clothes, schools, political action groups, and more.  And sadly, it is a bad brand in the minds of tens of millions of people.  In the middle of a culture where Christianity has come to represent hypocrisy, judgmentalism, anti-intellectualism, insensitivity, and bigotry, it’s easy to see why the next generation wants nothing to do with it.  (David Kinnaman, Unchristian, 223)


Hypocrisy is endemic to fallen man, an integral part of his fleshly nature.  Persecution of the church helps to diminish the number of hypocrites, but even that cannot completely eliminate them.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 1-7, 352)


Augustine said, “The love of honor is the deadly bane of true piety.  Other vices bring forth evil works but this brings forth good works in an evil way.”  Hypocrisy is so dangerous because it is so deceptive.  It uses things that are basically good for purposes that are basically evil.  “Hypocrisy,” he goes on to say, “is the homage that vice pays to virtue.”  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 1-7, 355)


In a society which values piety, as did first-century Judaism, people are more easily conned by religious ostentation.  (R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, 234)


Symbolically speaking therefore, for the left hand not to know what the right hand is doing means total lack of acquaintance, utter ignorance.  And since the hands are part of the person, the expression probably refers to the fact that as much as possible a person must keep his voluntary contribution a secret not only to others but even to himself; that is, he should forget about it, instead of saying in his heart, “What a good man, woman, boy, girl, am I!”  This explanation receives support from 25:37-39, where the righteous are represented as being totally unaware of their own past benevolent deeds.  (William Hendriksen, Matthew, 321)


OT worship was communicated through the making of sacrifices, and these were to be sacrifices of praise, not sacrifices to inflate the ego of the giver or to make his offering appear noble.  A sacrifice not given from the heart was not offered in faith.  Whatever reward God might give for the sacrifice would be withheld if the offering had not come from the heart.  Sacrifices offered for self-serving reasons were hypocritical.  Just as the author of Hebrews makes a distinction between sacrifices made in faith and those that are not, so Jesus here makes a distinction between a gift that is given genuinely from a gift that is given hypocritically.  (RC Sproul, Matthew, 131)


But, says Jesus, this is not a gift in the sight of God.  It is a purchase!  The man is not helping the poor half as much as he is using the poor to help him.  (Sinclair B Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 110)


Why do men become like this?  Why do we become like this?  There may be several answers to that question.  We fail to understand and deal with our own hearts.  This is one of the most frequent mistakes Christians make.  We fall prey to what the NT calls ‘sin’s deceitfulness’ (Heb. 3:13).  (Sinclair B Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 114)


Throughout this section of the sermon, our Lord hints that the real trouble with the heart of the hypocrite is that he does not know God as his heavenly Father!  He is insecure before God and, therefore, seeks security in what his fellow men think about him.  He is unreal in his activities before men because he has no real relationship with God.  (Sinclair B Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 114)


Now in a theatre there is no harm or deceit in the actors playing their parts.  It is an accepted convention.  The audience know they have come to a drama; they are not taken in by it.  The trouble with the religious hypocrite, on the other hand, is that he deliberately sets out to deceive people.  He is like an actor in that he is pretending (so that what we are seeing is not the real person but a part, a mask, a disguise), yet he is quite unlike the actor in this respect:  he takes some religious practice which is a real activity and he turns it into what it was never meant to be, namely a piece of make-believe, a theatrical display before an audience.  And it is all done for applause.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 129)


Probably the vast majority of people are more influenced by what men will say, than by what God Almighty thinks.  —G. Campbell Morgan  (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary–Matthew, 110)


It is easier to pose as a righteous person than to actually be one.  One second-century rabbi declared that nine-tenths of all the hypocrisy in the world was to be found in Jerusalem.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary–Matthew, 54)


We human beings are a strange lot.  We hear high moral injunctions and glimpse just a little the genuine beauty of perfect holiness, and then prostitute the vision by dreaming about the way others would hold us in high esteem if we were like that.  The demand for genuine perfection loses itself in the lesser goal of external piety; the goal of pleasing the Father is traded for its pygmy cousin, the goal of pleasing men.  It almost seems as if the greater the demand for holiness, the greater the opportunity for hypocrisy.  This is why I suspect that the danger is potentially most serious among religious leaders.  (D.A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 59)


You notice how the first statement puts it:  ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.’  In other words there is no contradiction here, but we are called to do both these things at one and the same time.  The Christian is to live in such a way that men looking at him, and seeing the quality of his life, will glorify God.  He must always remember at the same time that he is not to do things in order that he may attract attention to himself.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies on the Sermon on the Mount, 292-3)


In other words, having done it in secret you do not take your little book and put down: ‘Well, I have done that.  Of course I haven’t told anybody else that I have done it.’  But you put an extra mark in a special column where exceptional merit is recorded.  In effect our Lord said:  ‘Don’t keep these books at all; don’t keep spiritual ledgers; don’t keep profit and loss accounts in your life; don’t write a diary in this sense; just forget all about it.  Do things as you are moved by God and led by the Holy Spirit, and then forget all about them.’  How is this to be done?  There is only one answer, and that is that we should have such a love for God that we have no time to think about ourselves.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies on the Sermon on the Mount, 298)


Today I might preach:  “Let me tell you why you’re not going to be a truthful person.  I lie most often to avoid others’ disapproval.  If I just try to stop lying, it won’t work because my need for others’ approval overwhelms my good intentions.  I allow other people, instead of Jesus, to determine my worth.  If you want to stop lying, you have to find what is motivating your sin–like my tendency to look to others for affirmation–and replace it with the security you can find in Jesus.

The goal is not reformation, but transformation.  (Timothy Keller, Leadership magazine, Winter 2002, 36)


Men are often willing to be baptized, to pay their money, or do anything that is respectable, rather than humble themselves by repentance.  But it is all of no avail.  We come to the footstool of sovereign mercy only by genuine self-abasement.

A man who has counterfeit money is worse off than one who has no money.  Preaching unscriptural ideas of repentance does, perhaps, more damage than not preaching repentance at all.  It is harder to unlearn an error than it is to learn the truth.  (B.T. Roberts, Fishers Of Men, 125)


What is the difference between the Christian and the natural man in doing good?  Well, the natural man often does a great deal of good in this world, but I hope I am not being unfair to him when I say that he generally likes to keep a record of it.  He is rather subtle sometimes in the indirect way in which he refers to it, but he is always conscious of it, and keeps an account of it.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 279)


It is not your sin that will keep you out of heaven . . .  It is your thinking that you are righteous . ..  That you don’t need Jesus.


Worship Point:  Worship the One who perfectly loves God and does all that He does for the sake of others.  By trusting Jesus we can be set free from the bondage of needing human approval.  Worship Jesus.


Gospel Application:  Jesus’ righteousness exceeded that of the Scribes and the Pharisees (Mt 5:20).   And He lived a perfect life just as His Father in heaven is perfect (Mt 5:48).  Repent and trust in the righteousness of Christ to save you as you could never begin to obtain a righteousness like His.  He will credit His righteousness to you by faith.  (Rom 1:16-17; 3:19-26; 10:4; Phil 3:7-10)


The aim of disciplines in the spiritual life–and, specifically, in the following of Christ–is the transformation of the total state of the soul.  It is the renewal of the whole person from the inside, involving differences in thought, feeling, and character that may never be manifest in outward behavior at all.  This is what Paul has in mind when he speaks of putting off the old man and putting on the new, “renewed to resemble in knowledge the one who created us…” (Col 3:10).

The genius of the moral teachings of Jesus and his first students was his insistence that you cannot keep the law by trying not to break the law.  That will only make a Pharisee of you and sink you into layers of hypocrisy.  Instead, you have to be transformed in the functions of the soul so that the deeds of the law are a natural outflow of who you have become.  This is spiritual formation in the Christian way, and it must always be kept in mind when we consider Jesus’s teachings about various behaviors–in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere.

For example, his famous teaching about turning the other cheek.  If all you intend is to do that, you will find you can do it with a heart still full of bitterness and vengefulness.  If, on the other hand, you become a person who has the interior character of Christ, remaining appropriately vulnerable will be done as a matter of course, and you will not think of it as a big deal.  (Dallas Willard, The Great Omission, 152)


The Russian author Turgenev wrote, “I do not know what the heart of a bad man is like, but I do know what the heart of a good man is like, and it is terrible.”

The Sermon on the Mount exposes the state of the heart of the believer.  First, the Beatitudes (vv. 3-12) provide us with a description of the ideal character of the true believer.  Then after two convicting metaphors (vv. 13-16) we are given six illustrations of the surpassing righteousness to which we are called (vv. 20-48), a righteousness that supersedes and fulfills that of the scribes and Pharisees–and indeed that of the OT.  This exposé of the heart brings us to an honest admission of what we really are, and it is not a pretty picture.

However, that is ultimately good because seeing ourselves as we are opens us up to God’s grace.  That is precisely the significance of the first Beatitude:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit [the spiritually bankrupt who realize they have nothing to commend them to God], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (5:3).  When we see our spiritual wretchedness, we are candidates for spiritual greatness.  Or as Pascal said, “Man is great insofar as he is wretched.”  (R. Kent Hughes,   Preaching the Word–The Sermon on the Mount, 145)


In a world where the only plea is “not guilty,” what possibility is there of an honest encounter with Jesus, “who died for our sins”?  We can only pretend that we are sinners, and thus only pretend that we are forgiven.  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 171)


It is not the hookers and thieves who find it most difficult to repent:  it is you who are so secure in your piety and pretense that you have no need of conversion.  They may have disobeyed God’s call, their professions have debased them, but they have shown sorrow and repentance.  But more than any of that, these are the people who appreciate His goodness:  they are parading into the kingdom before you:  for they have what you lack—a deep gratitude for God’s love and deep wonder at His mercy.  (Brennan Manning, Ragamuffin Gospel, 103)


Spiritual Challenge:  Take a good, hard, long, honest look at your “acts of righteousness”.   We can never know if we are doing them for God and God alone unless or until we do all we can to avoid needing to let others know about our doing them.


What is conviction of sin?  It is not an oppressive spirit of uncertainty or paralyzing guilt feelings.  Conviction of sin is the lance of the divine Surgeon piercing the infected soul, releasing the pressure, letting the infection pour out.  Conviction of sin is a health-giving injury.  Conviction of sin is the Holy Spirit being kind to us by confronting us with the light we prefer to ignore.  Conviction of sin is the severe love of God overruling our compulsive dishonesty, our willful blindness, our favorite excuses.  Conviction of sin is the violent sweetness of God opposing the sins lying comfortably undisturbed in our lives.  Conviction of sin is the merciful God declaring war on the false peace we settle for.  Conviction of sin is our escape from malaise to joy, from attending church to worship, from faking it to authenticity.  Conviction of sin, with the forgiveness of Jesus pouring over our wounds, is life.  (Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., Preaching the Word: Isaiah, God Saves Sinners, 25-6)


Quotes to Note:

Scripture everywhere proclaims that all of men’s words, actions, etc., including what occurred in secret, will become public (Eccl 12:14; Mt 5:3-12; 10:26, 27; Mk 4:22; Lk 8:17; 12:2, 3; Rom 2:16; I Cor 3:13; 14:25; Rv 20:12, 13).  The idea that deeds of kindness toward the poor, done in secret, will remain secret forever, even the reward being bestowed in secret clashes with this prevailing teaching.  (William Hendriksen, Matthew, 321)


James warned double-minded people to purify their hearts (Ja 4:8).  Failure to find the wholeness to which Jesus invited people results from trying to face in two directions at once, from trying to gain the benefits of conflicting loyalties.  That is double-mindedness.  It conjures up a picture of straddling the fence.

  1. Stanley Jones says that people’s spiritual failures result form being inwardly divided. In The Christ of the Mount (p. 200), he lists nine expressions of human dividedness that Jesus pointed out:

(1) You do your beautiful religious acts with divided motives–you give to God, but also “to be seen of men” (6:1-4).

(2) You pray in two directions–to be heard of God and to be overheard of people (6:5-15).

(3) You fast with divided purpose–you do it before God and yet you hope that people will give you credit for being abstemious (6:16-18).

(4) You try to lay up treasure in two directions–upon earth and in heaven (6:19-21).

(5) You see in two directions–your outlook is divided (6:22-23).

(6) You are trying to be loyal in two directions–trying to serve God and mammon(6:24).

(7) You are anxious in two directions–toward what you shall eat and drink and be clothed with, and also toward the kingdom of God (6:25-34).

(8) You are criticizing in two directions–toward your sister or brother with rather heavy emphasis and toward yourself rather lightly (7:1-5).

(9) You are giving yourself–giving yourself to God and also giving that holy thing called personality to the dogs of appetite and the swine of desire (7:6).  (Jason Martin,  The Sermon on the Mount, 130)






Our Reward


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply