Sermons

Summary: When I give, God’s approval is what counts.

June 10, 2001

Secret Christianity – Part 1

INTRODUCTION

In September of 1997 Ted Turner announced he was giving a billion dollars to the United Nations. The billion dollars was the amount his TimeWarner stock climbed in the last 9 months. He himself admitted he was giving away only a third of his wealth. But however you look at it, making a decision to give away a third of your assets is remarkable.

And consider what he gave to. Not to some of the typical causes of the richest of the rich. Not to the Turner museum in some lucky city; not to endow a Turner chair at some fine university; not to create a spacious sports stadium with sky boxes; not to build a palacial center for the performing arts. Rather, Turner directed his dollars to food, clothing, shelter and medical care for the poorest of the poor. And then daring his fellow billionaires to follow suit saying, “If you are rich, you can expect a call or a letter from me,” he promised.

All of this is very credible. However, it’s also very interesting on a deeper level. While being very generous, he still wanted to make sure everybody knew. Before making the gift, he called up Larry King so he could start circulating the news. And then, Turner made his announcement in a New York ballroom filled with tuxedos, evening gowns, reporters and cameras.

Perhaps b/c his stock had risen so much it seemed wise to him and his advisors to be very public about where the increase was going. But oddly enough, Jesus says there’s still a better way to go about giving.

Read text: Matthew 6:1-4

1“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.

2“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Those are some challenging words. But we have to remember that in this greatest of all sermons that Jesus is delivering here in Matthew 5, 6 and 7, he’s laying out a way of truly following God’s commands without setting artificial limits. And having challenged the notions of what it meant to be truly religious in the areas of angry words, lust, divorce, telling the truth, outrageous attitudes and loving our enemies – he now challenges the popular notion of what it meant to be really religious in your giving. And here is what Jesus wants us to know…

Big Idea: When I give, God’s approval is what counts.

That’s it. That’s all that counts. But unfortunately, we don’t always act like that’s all that counts.

TRANSITION: So Jesus shows us a better way to give. In the section we just read…

I. HE (JESUS) EXPOSES THREE POSSIBILITIES FOR WHAT IS GOING ON IN OUR HEARTS WHEN WE GIVE

Let’s spend a few moments taking a look at these.

One possibility when we give is that we are…

1. Seeking the praise of people

Jesus says (v. 1), “Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men to be seen by them.”

In other words, He’s saying don’t do religious things for the sole purpose of being noticed. That’s nothing like the heart God desires. In fact, if that’s how we give, we will have no reward from our Father in heaven. Because we’re proving we haven’t let him change our hearts.

Interesting that Jesus said in 5:16, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

And now He’s saying be careful so that people don’t see. Isn’t that a big contradiction? Not if we understand Jesus’ intention. These two statements are actually making the same point. In 5:16 when people see our good deeds they are to praise our Father, not us. And in 6:1, Jesus says don’t do your acts of righteousness just so others will notice you. That won’t bring any glory to the Father if you wanting all the praise yourself. Good deeds are to make God visible, not shine the spotlight on us. That’s His point.

So, he again points to the Pharisees. Those religious legalists of His day. They knew what the Old Testament law said…

Deuteronomy 15:11 – There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.”

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