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2006-08-06_When You Give_Matthew 6.1-4

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When You Give

Matthew 6:1-4   |   Shaun LePage   |   August 6, 2006

I. Introduction

A.   I want to tell you about two famous pastors I’ve met. Both were very impressive men. Great preachers of the Word of God. Both pastored enormous churches. By all outward appearances, both men seemed to be great husbands, great fathers, great pastors, and great men of God.

1.     One was Chuck Swindoll. I benefited from his teaching for many years on the radio. In fact, in many ways I feel he discipled me because I didn’t have anyone in that period of my life who impacted me the way he did through Bible teaching. When I went to Dallas seminary, I took a part-time job at the seminary as a photographer. During my second year at DTS, the rumor began floating around that Chuck was going to be the new president of DTS. I was excited, but to be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to meet him and work with him. I was afraid he would not be who he was in the pulpit—on the radio. If he wasn’t, I didn’t want to know. He did become the president for the final two years I was a student and a staffer. I had quite a bit of contact with him and I found him to be the real deal. He treated lowly peons (like myself) with respect. He always remembered my name and seemed interested in how my studies were going. More than once, he wrote hand-written notes to me, thanking me for some little thing I had done as part of my job. I’m convinced Chuck Swindoll is—in his heart—the same great man of God we hear preaching God’s Word on the radio. Perfect? No, but authentic? Yes.

2.     I met the other man—who shall remain nameless—very briefly at a large pastor’s conference. Everyone at that conference wanted to be him. Wanted to pastor his church. Wanted to stand behind his pulpit. He was a very handsome man and a very impressive preacher. I liked him. A few years after I met him at that conference, word got out that he had been in an adulterous relationship—at least one—for more than a decade. When the church found out, the leadership asked him to step down as pastor. But he tried to hang onto his kingdom. He left without repenting and split the church. He tried to plant a new church nearby and invited hundreds of people from his former church to come with him. He was not who he seemed to be. He was a hypocrite.

3.     Jesus reserved His harshest words for the religious hypocrites of His day. In Matthew 23:27-28, Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

4.     Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount—Matthew 5:20—that “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” In the rest of that chapter—chapter 5—Jesus explained that the surpassing kind of righteousness is not outward only, but deep—an issue of the heart.

5.     We’re now going to look at what Jesus said in Matthew 6. In the first verse, Jesus gives a summary of what is to follow—the broad principle. Then, He gives three illustrations that make His teaching crystal clear.

II.   Body—Matthew 6:1-4

A.   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.”

1.     In verse 1, Jesus gives a broad, summary statement. Read it very carefully. He did not say, “Beware of practicing your righteousness.” True righteousness is of the heart, but that does not mean we don’t have to practice it with our mouth, our hands and our feet. He didn’t say, “Don’t practice your righteousness.” He kept going.

2.     He didn’t stop at “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men.” This would completely contradict what He taught in 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.” If Jesus would have stopped with “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men,” He would have contradicted Himself.

3.     Look at the full statement: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them…” It’s about your motives. In this passage—Matthew 6:1-18—Jesus specifically applies this to giving, praying and fast. It doesn’t matter if someone sees how much you give or hears you praying or finds out you’re fasting. It does matter if you do those things so that people will be impressed with how spiritual you are. I believe this applies to other “acts of righteousness” as well. If I share the gospel with people with the purpose of being noticed by my Christian brothers, or if I preach so that people will think I’m a great Bible expositor, or if I change diapers in the nursery making sure everyone within ear shot knows how much I’m suffering for Jesus, my motives are selfish and prideful. Jesus said, “Beware.”

4.     Look what He said next: “…otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” You might find it very rewarding to receive the praise and admiration of people, but that’s all the reward you’re going to get. The obvious implication here is wonderful! It’s life-changing! Don’t miss it. If you do your acts of righteousness with the right motive, you do have a reward with your Father who is in heaven! We’ll talk about this more in a few weeks when we look at v.20, but for now, let me just read that verse to remind you that there is such a thing as eternal reward and Jesus consistently held it out as a proper motivation for righteous living: “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal…”

5.     In this one verse, Jesus gives us a synopsis of where He’s headed: He’s telling us to do our acts of righteousness with the right motive, for the right audience, for the right reward.

B.    Look at Jesus’ first illustration in vs.2-4: Giving.

1.     I’m well aware that many people think preachers are only interested in money. I also know there’s some pretty good reasons why people think that. If someone’s only contact with a “preacher” is television, it’s easy to see how they could get that idea. Most preachers on TV are part of the Faith or Word-Faith Movement. This movement teaches that the human mind and tongue contain a supernatural power. So—the Faith preachers teach—we can speak whatever we want into existence. This is also known as the “health and wealth” movement.

2.     I reject that teaching and believe it is flawed on several levels. We’ll talk more about that another time. But I want you to know is that there is a lot of false teaching out there on the subject of giving, so it is important that we study and teach this. We obviously need to be balanced—we can talk about money too much and confuse ourselves about what is really important. On the other hand, we can talk about it too little and be biblically illiterate on the subject. Neither is healthy. Jesus taught about giving in the Sermon on the Mount, so I’m going to teach on the subject this morning. That’s how I think it should be done—as it comes up in the text—not a hobby horse I get on and ride whenever offerings are down.

3.     I also want you to know that I don’t know what any of you give. I don’t want to know. That’s between you and God. So, if you think I’m focusing all my attention on you this morning as I talk about money, we’ll assume that’s just the Holy Spirit working on you.

4.     What did Jesus teach here in Matthew 6:2-4 about giving? “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

a)    A. Give with informed obedience. (v.2a) “So when you give to the poor…” Jesus said this two times. He assumes we will be giving. He didn’t say, “If you give to the poor…” but “When you give to the poor.” And this obedience should be based on the principles laid out in Scripture—not on our own opinions.

(i)   Under the Law—in the Old Testament—every man gave tithes and offerings from all he had.

(a)  This was a pretty complicated system, but basically there were required amounts to give and there were voluntary offerings one could give. By the time it was all totaled up, a typical Israelite gave about 20 or 25 percent of his income—at least that’s what the Law required.

(b) A tithe simply means a “tenth.” Ten percent of all a person owned. Now, the first ten percent every one gave went to the Levites—the priests who ministered to the people. Listen to Numbers 18:21: “To the sons of Levi, behold, I (God) have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting.”

(ii) The New Testament does not command us to tithe. I believe the teaching of the New Testament is freedom. Freedom to not give? No. Freedom to give willingly rather than simply out of obedience to the Law. Let me give you some general New Testament principles about giving:

(a)  1. The New Testament teaches us to give everything.

1.     Mark 12:41-44. At the very least, Jesus is honoring the person in this story who gave the highest percentage of their income. Proportionally, she gave the most and Jesus honored her.

2.     In Luke 9:24, Jesus said, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”

3.     In Luke 14:33, Jesus said, “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”

4.     I know you’re thinking, “That’s not very practical.” We’ll come back to this in a second and bring it down to earth for you, but I want you to noodle on this awhile. Usually, when we talk about giving, we get caught up in percentages and how the Law may or may not apply to us. But the fact is, Jesus said 100%! He said you’re going to lose it all unless you lose it all for Him! You know what He means. Are you white knuckling what you have? Or, are you holding it in open hands before God saying, “Lord, I’m ready to give as much as You ask. Everything is Yours. You are Lord. I’m your steward.”

(b) 2. The New Testament teaches us to give in three practical ways:

1.     a. The poor. That’s what Jesus is specifically addressing here in Matthew 6:2-4. He literally said, “when you give alms”. Alms were a voluntary gift to the poor over and above regular giving. Many passages in the New Testament command and honor giving to the poor. I believe this must be done with a great deal of wisdom—we don’t want to support someone’s drug habit or alcoholism. But we must find ways to do it because the Bible commands it repeatedly.

2.     b. The family. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Jesus chastised the Jewish leaders to shirking their responsibility to take care of aging parents. The clear teaching of the New Testament is that we must work, earn an income and support the true needs of our immediate and extended families.

3.     c. The church / ministry.

a.     Again, the New Testament does not command us to tithe—to give 10% to the church. At the same time, I believe this is a useful, practical guide which reflects God’s desire for how we are to support the local body. I believe the principle was established by commanding that 10% go to the Levites—the religious leadership—and was then affirmed by the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 9:13.

b.    Listen to 1 Corinthians 9:13-14: “Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? 14 So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.” Do you see? He reminded his readers that the Levites received their living from the tithe given to them from those who benefited from their ministry. Then—referring to Matthew 10 and Luke 10—reminded them that Jesus Himself said “the laborer is worthy of his wages”—specifically referring to those who serve in what we would call “full-time ministry.”

c.     In 1 Timothy 5:17-18, Paul wrote, “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” What did he mean by that? The next verse (v.18) makes it perfectly clear: “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,’ and ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages.’” The principle here is that it is right and proper to pay a person to work in the ministry. Here, Paul specifically applies it to “elders who rule well…preaching and teaching.” But, I believe the principle is broader. The laborer is worthy of his wages and if a church wants to reward a laborer by paying him or her and freeing them up to focus on the ministry full-time, that’s not only acceptable but a very good thing.

d.    Now, I’m addressing this issue of financial support for those in the ministry because this is the main focus—I believe—of the New Testament for giving to the church. By focusing on ministers, I believe the emphasis of giving is placed on the ministry of the church. The Bible does not say anything about giving to pay for a building or air conditioning or carpeting, but it certainly doesn’t command against such things. We must be good and wise stewards in how we use what God provides, but we have a great deal of freedom. We believe it is wise to own a building and take good care of it because a building is a very useful tool for doing ministry.

e.     With all this in mind, the elder board has decided to present you with a mid-year report this morning. Preaching on this passage is a great opportunity to simply show you our current status and present you with some pressing needs. Frank Cherry will come first and explain the status quo. Then, Scott Schultz will come and present some of the needs. I’ll come back up with a few closing thoughts.

f.       [ Mid-year Report ]

g.     Our belief on this matter is simple. We are a church family and together we are stewards of this ministry and this building and this property. Giving to God’s work is not only commanded by Scripture, but is a privilege that should be done cheerfully.

b)    B. Give with the right motivation (v.2b-4a). Here, Jesus tells us how not to give.

(i)   This seems so over the top to us. “Do not sound a trumpet before you” seems like a ridiculous command. But the wealthy of Jesus’ day actually did this. They were supposedly letting the poor know that if they came to them, they would receive something. But in actuality, these people were full of pride. They sounded the trumpet to draw attention to themselves. “So that they may be honored by men,” Jesus said. That was their true motive. And that’s a wrong motive.

(ii) He said they were “hypocrites.” That Greek word was literally used of actors. At that time, actors wore masks and—of course—pretended to be someone they weren’t. The hypocrites Jesus spoke of looked like loving, generous people on the outside. But inside, they were prideful and wanted nothing but the attention of other people. They were not—in reality—who they were pretending to be.

(iii)    Their “reward” was very short-term. As soon as the poor scampered away with their coins and as soon as their admirers looked away, their reward evaporated like the morning fog. And their reward amounted to nothing.

(iv)    “…Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving will be in secret…” This left-hand, right-hand picture is obviously not literal. It’s impossible. Jesus is getting at a proper motive for giving. He’s contrasting this with the wrong motives of the hypocrites. They wanted to be seen by men. We want to be seen by God. “Secret” therefore doesn’t mean “secretive”—as in no one in the world can know what I gave or I’m going to lose my reward. No! Jesus honored the poor woman who gave a penny. Jesus knew what she gave. The point is motive. Give with the right motive—to please and honor “your Father.” This brings us to the third thing Jesus taught here about giving:

c)    C. Give with an eternal perspective. Look at the final thing Jesus said there: “…and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

(i)   To give back to God from that with which He has blessed us is an investment. You may ask, “Will I be rewarded in this life or the next?” The answer is yes. One or the other, but certainly you will be rewarded.

(ii) This principle is taught in several places. Look at 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 for example. Clearly, this farming metaphor teaches that if you invest little, you’ll receive little. If you plant one acre, you’re not going to reap a 100 acre crop. But, if you sow 100 acres, you’ll reap 100 acres. Paul is telling us that this is a spiritual law: Giving generously—with the right motives—will result in great reward. In v.8, he makes it clear that God provides for “good deeds.” This is radically different than what the Faith Movement teachers teach. They say God is forced to pay up here and now when you sow your seed. Even if you want it for completely selfish reasons, if you speak it in faith, it’s yours.

(iii)    But New Testament giving is to be done with an eternal perspective in mind—to store up treasure in heaven. To accomplish God’s work for God’s glory.

(iv)    Why should we give? Because giving is an investment in that which will last forever. How will God reward us? We don’t know exactly. What we do know is He will.

III. Closing:

A.   I want you to know that I practice what I preach—I don’t say this for prideful reasons, but to testify about God’s faithfulness. Beth and I have always given at least 10% of our income to our church since we’ve been married. We’ve also given to other ministries or individuals in various ways—always over and above our tithe to our church. Even when we’ve been in the low-income bracket—when I was a student, God has always provided.

B.    I believe giving to God’s work is an investment—storing up treasure in heaven. If we understand this, we will be less tempted to give with the wrong motives and be hypocrites in our giving.

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