Summary: Secret service results in rewards.
Helping Those in Need
Rev. Brian Bill
Video: “Why She Gets a Day” (www.tangle.com).
I know my mom loved me when I was unlovable – actually I think I’m still unlovable. I want to mention at the beginning that this sermon will not be a “typical” Mother’s Day message. Several years ago, after deciding to begin an expository verse-by-verse series from a book of the Bible, I asked the Women’s Ministry Team whether they thought I should devote Mother’s Day to a message for mothers like I’ve done in past years. I was surprised by their answer. They felt that it was not necessary to dedicate an entire sermon to mothers and preferred that the sermon series stay on track and include an application to mothers. So that’s what I’m going to do today. You can never go wrong listening to mothers about Mother’s Day!
Having said all that, this passage captures both the motives and majesty of motherhood. When I put this series together, these verses made me think of moms. We’re in the middle of a series from the Sermon on the Mount called, “Finding Hope in Hard Times.” If you missed any of the previous messages, you can access them at www.pontiacbible.org. We’ve discovered how to handle conflict, we’ve learned how to pray and last week we looked at some practical ways to overcome anxiety. Today our focus will be on helping those in need. My prayer is that God will use us individually and as a church to reach out to the hurting during these tough economic times.
In the middle section of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is contrasting true inner commitment with external ritual. The Jews were especially focused on giving to the needy, prayer and fasting. Here Jesus addresses each of these topics by telling his listeners to focus on inner motives not outward methods. We could summarize the sermon like this: Secret service results in rewards. Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew 6 where we will see four correctives to apply when we have opportunity to help those in need.
1. Manage your motives. Verse 1 is the summary statement that covers the topics in the first part of chapter six: “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.” The phrase, “Be careful” means “to take heed, to hold the mind on a matter.” Jesus used a similar expression when he warned people about greed in Luke 12:15: “Watch out! Be on your guard…” These “acts of righteousness” refer to any deed that we do in Christ’s name. And the phrase, “to be seen” is the word from which we get “theater.” It’s the idea of making a spectacular performance, but it’s all an act.
Twelve years ago Ted Turner announced that he was giving a billion dollars to the United Nations. But before he made the gift, he notified talk-show host Larry King so he could start circulating the news. His announcement was then made in a New York City ballroom filled with tuxedos, evening gowns, reporters and cameras (Michael Luke, sermoncentral).
We can look down on him for this but we need to take heed because our motives get all messed up and misaligned when it comes to ministering to people. I wrestled with this on Thursday when our office manager Angie told me that I had a phone call from a pastor who wanted to talk about the sermons on our website. When I picked up the phone I heard an accented voice speaking broken English. He introduced himself as being from Bolivia and was calling to thank us for the sermons. After hanging up I called Angie back to let her know that this Bolivian pastor is using our sermons. Why did I do that? I did it simply because I wanted to “be seen” by someone. Here’s where my motives get even messier. Even though I’m confessing my duplicity I’m also letting you know that our sermons are being used in Bolivia, hoping that you’ll be impressed and think better of me than I really am. By doing this, I’ve lost my reward.
As best we can, we really need to get our reason for serving straightened out. It is the Lord God we serve. We shouldn’t serve to impress others or to try to gain favor with God. Even the Apostle Paul struggled with this in 1 Corinthians 4:4-5: “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.”