Faithlife Sermons

Is There Thanks Behind our Giving? Thanksgiving Day 11/26/2020

Your Kingdom Come  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  23:13
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We began our journey through Matthew 5 on the last Sunday of June. For five months, we have sat at the feet of Jesus learning from him what life in the Kingdom of heaven looks like when we live in it. Looking back, we can make three observations about life in the kingdom.

1) Life in the Kingdom runs counter to the “normal” life of this world.

Kingdom life runs against the grain of our culture so much that it can make us feel like we are flying upside down in the normal world. Despite that feeling, it is the normal world that is upside down. Our culture and society disconnect from a proper orientation to the God who loves and sustains all creation. It is only people who connect to God through faith in Jesus Christ that walk right-side up in this upside-down world. It is only the followers of Jesus who have the possibility and capability of feeling, thinking, and acting in ways that bring glory in this world to the one God to whom all glory and honor belong.
The right-side up life we live in this upside-down world seems strange and offensive to those living an upside-down life. It is not unusual then for the followers of Jesus living as Jesus did, rightly related to God, to face persecution for the life we live.

2) Life in the Kingdom is a matter of the heart.

It is a heart rightly related to God and then to others that enables us to live rightly in this world.

3) Life in the kingdom is a paradox.

On the one-hand, life in the kingdom is never about us. It is never about our honor, our glory, our success, or our physical security. Life in the kingdom is a life so eager to display the glory of God that no sacrifice is too high a price to pay for that outcome.
On the other-hand, life in the kingdom is all about our wellbeing. Life in the kingdom is the only life in which we can live as blessed persons or a blessed church family in this world. Because we give our hearts to God, our actions bring God glory in this world. Life as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven is the only life which God rewards positively in this life and the next.

Great is your reward in heaven.

Reward is the central theme of our passage this morning. In Matthew 6, Jesus speaks of our reward 7 times. We are going to take a brief look at each of these verses. As we go through them, see if you can find the theme common to each of them.
Matthew 6:1 NIV
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
Matthew 6:4 NIV
so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Matthew 6:16 NIV
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
Did you catch the common theme?
I think Jesus states that theme in the first sentence of Matthew 6:1:

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in from of others to be seen by them.”

This sentence connects us to the paradox of life in the kingdom of heaven. The whole of chapter 5 teaches us how to live a righteous life that others notice in this world. Jesus teaches us how to live the life that God rewards in this world and beyond in eternity.
Then the first sentence of chapter 6 tells us, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.” Chapters 5 and 6 hit us with the full force of the life in the Kingdom paradox. As chapter 5 makes clear, our righteous life is all about our wellbeing and blessing in this life and the next. Chapter 6 clarifies that our kingdom life is never about our glory and honor before others. While the honor of others is real and satisfying. Worldly honor is its full reward. There is nothing beyond it of eternal value.
The point of our righteous public life is to let our “light shine before others, that they may see [our] good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven.”[1] The Father endorses this light-shining-life as not only valuable in this life, but it is a life valuable for all eternity.
There are at least two troubling misconceptions about what it means to “not practice our righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.” I will address these by two statements of what Matthew 6:1 does not mean.

Matthew 6:1does not mean that we should limit in any way our public commitment to Jesus in what we say or what we do.

There are Christians who limit their public commitment to Jesus thinking this enables them to appear humble and in obedience to Matthew 6:1. Jesus’ teaching clarifies that this kind of false humility is merely public denial of Jesus.
Jesus in chapter 5 teaches that we are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world. Jesus says, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”[2]
Jesus expects we will live our righteous life so that others will notice our good deeds.
Jesus tells us in Luke 12:8-9,
Luke 12:8–9 NIV
“I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.
Based on Jesus’ teaching, we know Jesus expects us to bear public witness to him in what we say and in what we do. There should be no doubt among people where our allegiance lies. Therefore, Matthew 6:1 cannot mean Christians should limit our witness to Jesus in what we say and do to fulfill the command “do not practice your righteousness before others.”

Matthew 6:1 does not mean that we should avoid recognizing and saying thank you to our brothers and sisters in the Lord when they do good deeds within the church or in the world.

There are Christians who think not acknowledging the good deeds of others helps their brothers and sisters avoid the sin of pride. The scriptures do not support this point-of-view. In Luke 21, Jesus commended in public the widow who in an act of public worship gave two small coins as her offering. Jesus said,
Luke 21:3–4 NIV
“Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Paul was liberal in his praise of other believers for their good works. The last chapter of Romans shows us a rich example. I want to share a few of Paul’s recognitions of the works of others from his lengthy list of closing greetings.
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon, of the church in Cenchreae [cane-cray-eye]. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me. Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.” (Romans 16:1–4, NIV)
Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. Greet Andronicus [Ah-drone-nee-kohs} and Junia, [You-nee-ah] my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.” (Romans 16:6–7, NIV)
Greet Apelles[Ah-pell-lays, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test. (Romans 16:10, NIV)
Greet Tryphena [Tray-fine-ah] and Tryphosa [Tray-foh-sha], those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.” (Romans 16:12–13, NIV)
Given these examples from Jesus and Paul, Matthew 6:1 cannot mean that we should withhold recognition and thanks for the good works our brothers and sisters do for the Lord.
If Matthew 6:1 does not mean that we should limit our public witness to Jesus or that we should limit our gratefulness for the good works of other Christians, what does it mean?

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The meaning of our passage today takes us back to Jesus’ first beatitude. “Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Persons poor in spirit know deep in their soul that everything that they have comes from their Father in Heaven. They know their ability to gain wealth to meet their needs in this life is a gracious gift from their Father. As the poor in spirit learn to allow the life of Jesus to flow through them, pride, pretense, and the desire for recognition when they give to God and others diminishes overtime. For the poor in spirit, every gift they offer, whether large or small, is God providing through them for the wellbeing of others or for the advancement of God’s kingdom.
When we give our hearts to God, our giving is not our giving at all. It is God passing his resources to where he needs them through us. The poor in spirit understand all God supplies us is a temporary trust of his resources—nothing belongs to us.
Overtime, the poor in spirit recognize and come to cherish the fact that all their wealth, possessions, and their unique combination of personality, intellect and abilities are God’s good gifts to them. The wealth, help, and life that flows from the poor in spirit is not their own, but it is the wealth, help, and life of God himself flowing through them to exactly where God wants those resources to flow.

There is Always Thanks Behind Our Giving

As Children of God indwelt by the life of Jesus through the Holy Spirit, there is always thanks behind our giving. Our giving flows from God’s great goodness in our lives and our thankfulness for His provision of all we own and of all that makes us uniquely us. God himself enables us to give of our wealth, possessions, time, and our abilities in service to him and others. Because “it is God who works in [us] to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose,”[3] we can do big things and small things with great love for Him and for others.
Philippians 2:13 NIV
for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
As children of our heavenly Father, it is not the temporary honor of this world we crave. We run after the loving gaze of our Heavenly Father, who sees and rewards the acts of mercy and generosity flowing from our thankful hearts for the daily bread our Father provides. Beyond this, our thankfulness overflows for the Bread of Life that our Heavenly Father gives us in the broken body of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus’ paid in blood the debt for our sins that we could never pay so we will enjoy an eternal reward we could never earn, which is living eternally in the presence and blessing of our Heavenly Father. Our giving flows from a heart filled with thankfulness for our daily bread and for Our Bread of Life—Jesus Christ our Lord.
[1] Matthew 5:16
[2] The New International Version. (2011). (Mt 5:16). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[3] The New International Version. (2011). (Php 2:13). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
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