Summary: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 Keeping up Appearances (Heavenly Mrs Bucket)

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Keeping up Appearances

(Heavenly Mrs Bucket)


In the 1990s there was a TV show from Britain called “Keeping Up Appearances.” Who remembers it? The reruns are still showing if you haven’t seen it and want to. The series is about a lady called Hyacinth Bucket, who’s whole purpose in life seems to be to impress everyone else how posh she is. She is always out to impress those people from the upper echelons of society, and shuns those who she thinks are beneath her. She is a snob – attempting to convince everyone that she is from high society, but the reality is far different. She lives in a pretty ordinary house in a pretty ordinary suburb somewhere in England. Her husband does some boring job at the local council. Her sister and brother-in-law definitely are not part of high society. But Hyacinth always covers up the bad and ordinary, and tries to convey the impression that she is from the upper class. Her surname is Bucket – but she pronounces it “Bouquet,” and she answers her phone, "The Bouquet residence, the lady of the house speaking!" Her neighbours, who Hyacinth is always trying to impress, live in constant fear of being invited to one of Hyacinth’s candlelight suppers. Hyacinth Bucket – I should say, Bouquet, lives in delusion. She lives her life constantly keeping up appearances. Trying to look good to everyone else, when the reality is often far different.

Today in our passage of Scripture, Jesus has a go at those who do a similar thing in their spiritual lives. People whose real righteousness is not that great, but try to keep up spiritual appearances by doing spiritual looking things so that other people will think they are pretty good. And in our passage Jesus looks at three aspects of spirituality, which are good things in and of themsleves. They are: giving to the needy, prayer, and fasting. And each time Jesus has much the same thing to say about them, which is summed up in Mt. 6.1:

Matthew 6:1 “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.

Hmmm this is interesting, because we’ve just finished chapter 5. There was a lot in chapter 5, so much that it took us 8 sermons to get through it! And basically in chapter 5, Jesus has been telling us how we ought to live - how we ought to practice our righteousness. For example:

Matthew 520 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

So in Mt 6.1 Jesus is not telling us not to practice our righteousness. Now what Jesus is now telling us, is who we should be practising our righteousness for, and who we shouldn’t.

Matthew 6:1 “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.

Jesus wants to warn us against doing righteous looking things in front of other people in order to impress them. And in Jesus’ day there were lots of people who did that. Rmember in Matthew 5.20 Jesus told us that our righteousness needed to exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees. Now the Scribes and the Pharisees were the spiritual Hyacinth Buckets [pronounced: “bouquet”] of the day. They wanted everyone else to know how righteous they were. How holy, how good, how close to God they were. They did this because they wanted others to think they were pretty good. They were only concerned with how they looked to others, so they concentrated on the externals, not the internals, and in chapter 5 we’ve seen how Jesus is not just interested in the externals as He is with what goes on inside.

We looked at murder – Jesus is not just concerned with the actual act – important as that is, but with the thoughts in our heads. Even when we are angry with others or out of sorts with other Christians. Jesus is interrested not just in the act of adultery, but in the thoughts of our mind – any desire to do it. Jeus is not just concerned with only telling the truth when under oath, but telling the truth all the time. Jesus is not concerned about our reputation, our wealth, our free time, and tells us to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile and help those in need. He is interested in what we are like on the inside, not on what we might portray to other people.

And as Jesus says in Mt 6.1, if we do good things just so other people will think we are spiritual or holy or religious, then we’ve already received our reward from those people, and so we won’t get any reward from God our Father. Jesus then uses three ways that the people of His day tried to look righteous before others: giving to the needy, prayer, and fasting. And the structure of each one is very similar. In each case, which we’ll soon look at, Jesus gives an example of how we can do righteous deeds, but do them only to win the favour of other people. And if we do them for that reason, then we receive our reward from those people, and won’t be rewarded by our Father.

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