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For Show or For Blow

Raw Faith for Real Life  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  30:51
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The prideful practice of spiritual rhythms robs them of their power.

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There comes a time when we all crossover from young to old. I think this happened for me a lot earlier than I wanted to admit. The time when men realize their footwear has morphed into “dad shoes” or when those gremlins sneak into a lady’s closet and swaps all your pants for “mom jeans”.
I finally admitted to myself and to our kids that I had crossed that line when my sister gave me hand-embroidered handkerchiefs for Christmas, and I concurred that having a handkerchief in one’s pocket isn’t a bad idea.
Cowboys have known this for years and most all experienced cowboys have worked in a dust storm have a bandana within reach. City-slickers usually take a little longer to figure this out. Many young professionals will wear a pocket square long before carrying a handkerchief. What’s the difference between a pocket square and a handkerchief? Well, one is for show and one is for blow.
In today’s text Jesus calls us to contemplate two spiritual practices—giving and prayer, and ask ourselves if we are doing them for show (to be seen) or for blow (to get something accomplished).

Your Righteousness Produces No Reward (v.1)

Matthew 6:1 (ESV) “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.


1. We learned this back when we studied the 10 commandments over the Winter. The first 4 commands can be summarized in the words of Isa 42:8.
Isaiah 42:8 (ESV) I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.


1. God created man to relate with Him and to rejoice in Him, but never to replace Him.
2. Bad things happen when we overstep our boundaries.
a. The Day Star learned this in Isa 14 when he said “I will ascend to heaven” and he was brought down to Sheol.
b. The nations learned this in Gen 11 when they said, “Let us build a tower and make a name for ourselves.” The Lord had to confuse their language and scatter them.
c. Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu lost their lives in Lev 10 when they offered incense in a way that God had not instructed.
d. King Saul learned this in 1 Sam 13 when he offered a sacrifice that only a priest could offer.
e. Uzzah learned in 2 Sam 6 that when God said “don’t touch the ark” He meant it!
f. And I could continue through Biblical history with examples of how God will not share His glory with another.
3. Today we are highlighting the ministry of Gideons International. One thing I have learned from nearly 50 years of watching this ministry is that I have never seen a single Gideon brag about the number of testaments he had personally distributed. If my perceptions are correct, there is not a single person in this organization who is worried about if the Bible app or International Bible Society distributes more volumes! They simply want to see the Word of God go forth, and they are willing to take it to places that might otherwise be missed. There is not a single Gideon who would ever want to diminish God’s glory for any type of personal fame.


1. Matthew 6 reveals 3 religious practices that can be manipulated by narcissism: giving, praying and fasting.
2. Today we will look at the first 2.
Transition: The first way that God’s glory can be manipulated by human narcissism is illustrated in Giving…

Public Praise Destroys Compassion’s Reward (vv.2-4)

Matthew 6:2–4 (ESV) “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Performance or Provision

1. First century Jews made offerings for many reasons (sacrifices and sin offerings, tithes, temple taxes & alms). Jesus here twice specifies that he is talking about voluntary donations to those in need.
· This isn’t offering plate giving, it is the idea of the red kettle or the person with a cardboard sign.
2. The very-real need of providing for the needs of the poor, proved to be a perfect setting for a public performance or a photo-opportunity (if they had Youtube in Jesus’ day).
· Since there is no evidence whatsoever that trumpets were ever blown to indicate a donation has been made, there are 3 potential explanations of what Jesus means.
· 1) Jesus is merely using hyperbole to expose the motive of the hypocrites.
· 2) donation boxes near the synagogues were sometimes shaped with a horn or funnel that directed donations into the box. Hypocrites would toss their coins in such a way that it ricocheted against every possible surface on the way into the box.
· 3) at feasts and festival times a shofar would be blown then the city streets would be unusually full during the festival, so Jesus is speaking of only giving when there is a high likelihood of being seen.
· I think the first explanation is most likely with the 3rd explanation also being probable.
3. Meet needs with pure motives and leave the results to God.
· “when you give” in vv.2 &3 presumes that we will meet needs
· “to be seen” and “may be praised” in vv. 1 &2
· “do not let your left hand…” A palm-pass vs. an ostentatious two-handed presentation.
· “in secret” 2x in v.3 leads to full reward.


1. The first century had the same problem that we have today: shifting blame and needs that fall through the cracks.
a. Property owners paid taxes to the Roman Government and some would think that the Government would care for the needs of the citizens.
b. Producers tithed of their increase to the Temple and a portion of the tithe was to meet the needs of widows and orphans.
c. The strong sense of family obligation presumed that men would take care of those in their own family who had need.
d. So politicians presumed that temple and families should care for the poor. Priests reasoned that government and families should care for the poor. Heads of households supposed government and temple should care for the poor. Meanwhile the poor lined the streets seeking compassion from anyone, while government, temple, and family leaders lined their pockets.
2. Our compassion and generosity should always outweigh the obligation of others.

Application – a proportional reward

1. If your donation is motivated by “I can’t wait to post this on social media”, v.1 says you will have no reward.
2. If your donation is driven by getting your name on a plaque or in the newspaper, v.2 says that limited reward is all you get.
3. If your donation is driven by compassion and given quietly, v.3 says it will be noticed by your Father and given full reward.
· There is no indication as to when or what this reward is (It is mere speculation to assume that the reward is either worldly prosperity or a heavenly crown. The reward is simply something that your Father deems secretly appropriate)
Transition: The second spiritual practice that Jesus addresses is public prayer and the principle is…

Public Clichés Deflate Prayer’s Power (vv.5-8)

Gaudy not Godly; Hollow not Holy

1. The problem is not that it is seen, the problem is motivation. The problem is not the repetition, the problem is the vanity of the repetition.
2. 5:16 commands us to give light that can be seen, but good works in chapter 5 are not motivated by reward. Good works are quite different than prayer. Prayer is meant for an audience of one.
3. “When public or corporate prayer is motivated by narcissism it is wrong.”[i]
4. Prayer is human words directed Godward in response to God’s Word directed toward man. Whenever our words cease to be directed to God, they cease to be prayer.
5. There is not a whole lot of new insights in these verses that were not also true of vv.2-4 except for the reference to shut doors and empty phrases.
· “into your room and shut the door” would refer to a secure room away from the street with no windows where valuable papers or belongings would be kept. It is a place of importance and privacy.
· “empty phrases” is explained in the next clause with “many words”. They both carry the idea of quality over quantity.


1. Nothing should ever be offered in a public prayer that we would be hesitant to say in a private, silent prayer.
Perhaps the greatest example of this struggle to pray publicly yet reverently can be found in professional sports.
· We’ve seen the baserunner point to heaven when he touches Homeplate.
· We’ve seen the running-back silently kneel in the endzone at the completion of a play.
· We’ve seen opposing teams join hands at half-court following a close game.
· We’ve also seen players pop chewing gum during a moment of silence.
· We heard a Nascar prayer thank God for one preacher’s “smoking hot wife”
· We’ve heard Uncle Leon recount his personal devotions for the previous week and thankfully inventory the table while the turkey gets cold.
· We’ve heard speeches to and by politicians when asked to give an invocation or a benediction.
2. I think it is totally appropriate to acknowledge God’s presence and seek His aid at public events. I think it is honorable to thank God at family gatherings. I think it is good to plea for God’s comfort during tragedy.
3. I simply think Jesus is saying in today’s text that we need to keep our thoughts and words toward God, rather than those around us.


1. Regarding “empty phrases” How many prayers have you heard that start with “Lord, thank you for this day and for bringing us together. We just want to…”
· I’m not trivializing these phrases because I know I’ve offered them in prayers. For most people who start with these phrases they then move into genuine expressions of their heart to God.
· I think these words start many prayers for 2 reasons: 1) we know we should be thankful before we start our shopping list of requests. 2) silence is awkward, and we need a couple seconds to gather our thoughts.
· I simple challenge us to consider remaining silent until God brings something to our mind for which we truly are thankful, or we acknowledge that it is a blessing to be alive and with others using other words. There is nothing wrong with a moment of quietness.
2. How many prayers have you heard that end with “in Jesus’ name, amen”?
· These words become a shorthand for “that’s all that’s on my mind right now.”
· While it is totally appropriate to end business correspondence with “sincerely yours”, very few of us would sign a Valentine’s card with that Postscript.
· If our prayers are sincere communication with a personal friend who happens to be the Lord of the Universe, perhaps our conclusions could be a little more personable.
Transition: To restate the 3 mainpoints of today’s message let me start by saying…


o If our attention is focused on our righteousness, God will not share His glory.
o If our giving seeks attention, God will not reward it.
o If our prayers are directed toward man, they will never have power.
Jesus modeled for us exactly what it looks like to give generously for others with no concern for His own well-being. As His arm were stretched, his feet and hands were pierced and He selflessly prayed, “Father forgive them; Into Your hands I commit my spirit; and It is finished.”
This Jesus who perfectly demonstrated giving and praying offers you eternal life if you would but repent and receive His gift of eternal life.
This Jesus calls us as His brothers and sisters to selflessly extend compassion and powerfully pray for those He loves that He calls us to reach.
Jesus calls us today not to puff up our own righteousness, but to seek His.
[i] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Matthew,” in The Moody Bible Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1463.
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