Summary: Whose applause do you seek? Don’t tell me you don’t need any! You would only be kidding yourself.

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Playing for Whose Applause?

Text- Matthew 6: 1-8, 16-18

Everybody loves applause! Recognition is a good thing. Last Sunday, you encouraged Pastor Steve and me tremendously by expressing your appreciation for our work in ministry. I guess I am hopelessly sentimental, but as I read your comments at the dinner table - I was choking back tears, much to the amusement of my daughter and son-in-law!

In today’s message, Jesus speaks to the issue of applause and appreciation. I don’t want you to hear the wrong message and conclude that it is wrong to give thanks or to receive it! I labor under that misconception to this day, having a very hard time receiving praise. Praise for a job well done, for faithfulness, or for achievement is a good gift. But, as we will see in our text, if we become focused on gaining awards, if we crave praise - our service will become corrupt.

Whose applause do you seek?

Don’t tell me you don’t need any! You would only be kidding yourself.

• Husbands want their wives to think they are good men.

• Wives want their husbands to desire them, to believe that they are good spouses and mothers.

• Employees are motivated by the possibility of being named Best Production person of the Month.

• Students work to be included on the Honor Roll.

• Teens crave the approval and/or admiration of their peers.

We all like to hear words of approval from our friends. Behind it all is the question that most of us ask ourselves in one way or another.... Am I a worthy person? What makes me valuable?

Tony Campolo, sociologist, writer, and Christian speaker, writes-

"There is a drivenness about the American people....each is trying to establish his or her own place in society through personal achievement. People are supposed to earn their own place on the ladder of success. Somehow we Christians believe that being caught up in the drive to gain recognition and to obtain the symbols of success is something we left behind when we committed ourselves to Christ. But few beliefs are further from the truth....

The symbols of success may change, but Christians are even more plagued than others by anxieties about their performance in life. For Christians the stakes are even higher than for the secularist. We are constantly judging ourselves in negative ways because we fall short of expectations. We think our prayer life is not good enough; or our Bible study is not deep enough; or we aren’t witnessing enough; or we are not loving enough."

1 The Performance Illusion, Chap Clark, Navpress, 1994; Foreword


This anxiety about our personal worth, about our sense of achievement, and God’s approval can easily misdirect our Christianity into a life of performance of good deeds designed to earn the applause of others.

What does Jesus say about that?

TEXT- Matthew 6: 1-8, 16-18 {Pew Bible page 1503}


What is central truth in this whole passage? Keep your focus on the One whose approval matters most!

Jesus sets His teaching in the context of three spiritual acts - giving, praying, and fasting!


The first issue Jesus addresses is ‘acts of righteousness.’ In the KJV the word used is ‘alms.’ It specifically refers to charitable work, especially giving to the poor. In the time of Jesus, those who were sick or disabled, blind, or otherwise unable to provide for themselves, depended on begging to provide their daily bread! There were no social programs, no government money, nothing comparable to organizations like Red Cross, Salvation Army, and the like. It was generally accepted that an expression of piety and goodness was shown by giving to those who were begging. The giving was made all the more important by a common idea that those who were suffering, were in that state because of some sin they or their family had committed. So, when you gave to them, not only were you helping to meet their need for food, you were also showing them compassion by ‘overlooking’ the fact that they were in the state they were in because they ‘deserved’ it!

We broaden Jesus’ words about ‘acts of righteousness’ to include all of our giving - to the poor and to the church.

There was in that time, and right down to our time, a temptation to make a show out of giving with the hope that our generosity will impress others!

Imagine this scene.....


As the ushers pass down the aisle with the offering plates, they reach the row near the center of the church. One man takes the plate and stands up. Clearing his throat, he reaches deep into his pocket and pulls out a check, announcing in a loud voice;

"This is my yearly tithe of $10,000 and because I have given this amount I expect to that you will pay attention to my needs, do what I think needs to be done around here. I expect immediate access to the Pastor, a preferred parking spot, and special attention!"

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