Summary: We can be actors or we can be real. Ultimately all acting is hypocrisy and a demonstration that we don’t believe in God. We need to be real in spiritual disciplines of our lives.
I like words. Especially words which are full of emotion. Politics. Freedom. Romance. Equality. Destiny. They are all words which create emotion. So does this one … hypocrite.
The word hypocrite comes from the Greek word for actors. It literally means to put on a mask – which is what actors in the early days would do when they went on stage. The main goal of acting is to pretend.
If you ever have a chance to meet an actor they are very different people from what they are like on the stage or screen.
Their whole life is all about taking off their true identity and putting on a false identity.
Which is OK really – because that is acting – actors are literally allowed to be hypocrites.
But that is not the case when it comes to Christianity. If we are to be followers of Jesus we can’t be actors. Jesus Himself makes that very clear in the Sermon on the Mount.
Read Matthew 6:1-18
Jesus is very much against hypocrites isn’t He.
Jesus doesn’t want people to turn on their righteousness when they step into the limelight. Jesus doesn’t want holiness to start just because the music has begun.
Jesus wants people who are real. To help us see what that means Jesus gives three practical examples.
Giving to the Needy
Play Acting Righteousness.
In the days of Jesus if there was a crisis or a great monetary need, the leaders of the temple would blow a trumpet to let people know so they could come to temple and help with funds.
You can imagine Simeon Bartholomew working away in his bakery. The trumpet sounds.
Quickly he packs up and closes the shop.
Then he takes his money bag and walks with a determined look on his face to the temple.
Everyone knows where he is going and what he is going to do.
As he walks along other people are thinking, “Isn’t Simeon such a holy person!” Tomorrow they will come to his shop and buy his products because he is such a generous person. Quietly everyone gives Simeon a clap and cheer. Simeon has his reward – the praise of men.
That is play-acting righteousness and it creates real problems. Our society esteems people who show generosity don’t they. The corporation that supports the Royal Children’s Hospital with one of those big cheques. We look at that and we say, “They are such great people because they give so much?” Really?
Or is it more true to say that they have the opportunity because of the size of their income? In the Christian family we do not want people to think it is the size of the donation that makes you righteous. It is the heart behind it. Later in Jesus life He will be at the temple and He will be watching what happens there.
As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” 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.”
When it comes to giving to the needy this is Jesus Righteousness.
He says, “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing”.
Jesus is not giving us a literal command.
You get your wallet out of your pocket while at the same time hiding your other hand away. It is obvious isn’t it that Jesus is using an extreme example to emphasise the importance of this teaching.
What Jesus wants is people who forget how generous they really are.
You kind of know because you set money ask for His work.
In these days when you can claim some of your giving on tax – well there are records.
But really you don’t really know and, honestly, you don’t really care.
You don’t care because, for God, the amount you give is not the issue. God doesn’t need our money because it is His in the first place. Besides, if he wants something to happen the money will come, with or without you. It isn’t the amount, but the attitude.
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
The word for cheerful here is “hilarious” – I’m laughing my head off as I give because it is just material stuff anyway. It’s not about me anyway, it is about others. I don’t want others to know, I just want the satisfaction of being able to help.