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Summary: "The Great Pretenders" sermon is part of the Sermon on the Mount series talking about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and how they were acting out the part in their giving of alms, prayer and fasting.

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Sermon on the Mount

“The Great Pretenders”

Matthew 6:1-6

A father complained about the amount of time his family spent in front of the television set. His children watched cartoons and neglected their schoolwork. His wife preferred soap operas to doing housework. His solution was that as soon as baseball season was over he was going to pull the plug.

A husband and wife were discussing the possibility of taking a trip to Israel. The husband said, “Wouldn’t it be fantastic to go to the Holy Land and shout the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai?” The wife replied, “It’d be better if we stayed at home and kept them.”

Tonight I’d like to look at the Jesus’ message to the Great Pretenders.

Read Matthew 6:1-6

At first this section may seem to contradict an earlier teaching where Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

What we see are some glaring similarities. Both speak of doing good works, and doing them before others. But Jesus earlier remark makes this a command; while in our text tonight He prohibits it. Is Jesus contradicting Himself?

Not at all! In our text Jesus is prohibiting religious devotion that’s done publically for self-glorification, whereas in His previous statement He commands good works be done so that God will be glorified.

What Jesus is saying is that everything we do is suppose to give God glory, not ourselves. It’s to call attention to God and His kingdom, not to call attention to ourselves.

Jesus is re-iterating a common theme, that is, remembering what our real motivation is. He’s dealing with the hidden thoughts of our hearts. Jesus is more concerned with the motivation behind the deed than He is in the deed itself.

It’s not about what the hand’s doing; rather it’s about what the heart’s thinking while the hand’s doing.

Throughout the gospels there seems to be an enormous appetite on the part of the Pharisees for public recognition.

“They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’” (Matthew 23:6-7 NKJV)

After they tried to kill Him for blasphemy, Jesus asked,

“How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44 NKJV)

Later John commented that the reason they didn’t believe is because they feared losing the prestige and honor within the synagogue.

“For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:43 NKJV)

And while it’s easy to criticize the Pharisees, the reality is they’re no different than we are. We all desire to be noticed, valued, and feel important. But what Jesus is speaking against is letting this desire transcend into our devotion to God. The Pharisees were turning their religious devotion toward God into a public performance.


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