Summary: A Sunday morning sermon exploring our motives for the spiritual disciplines of giving, praying and fasting.
The Three Wins of Matthew Chapter 6
I. When you give: Matthew 6:2-4
II. When you pray: Matthew 6:5-8
III. When you fast: Matthew 6:16-18
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
Dime Store Cowboy
Each summer, during our tourist season, our streets, stores and hotels are filled with visitors from all over the world. Many are passing through our small town to visit Yellowstone National Park; however, some purposefully come to our community to experience the great American West.
Yes, we have great hunting and fishing. The scenery that surrounds us is simply breath-taking. But, we are best characterized by the image of the cowboy: “Home on the range.” The wide open spaces, large cattle and horse ranches, the Buffalo Bill museum, nightly rodeos, evening gunfights at the Irma and pick up trucks pulling horse trailers sets the ambience tourists encounter when entering our town…during the summer. Take a walk down Sheridan Avenue any summer night and you will notice nearly every parked car is from out of state and the sidewalks are lined with people wearing new cowboy hats, Wrangler jeans and boots. For a brief moment, those from out of state step into the Wild West and begin a fantasy role play.
Place a real cowboy next to a weekend, “dime store” cowboy and the differences become very clear…you all know what I am talking about, e.g., store formed verses hand shaped hats, sweat stained rings verses ornamental fluff, etc. One is and the other wants others to think they are. There is no difference regarding Christianity: One is and the other wants others to think they are; however, line the two up and the “real deal” is clearly evident.
This morning, I want to provide for you three disciplines of our spiritual life that we can “win” with proper motives and a right relationship with God. The three areas we can “win” are “when” we give, “when” we pray and “when” we fast.
Hear the Word of the Lord:
“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. 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. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:1-4; N.I.V.).
I. When You Give.
In our first reading today, we are not talking about the tithe and we are not talking about “if” we give, but “when” we give, what is the motive for our giving?
Giving is hard enough, but giving anonymously is very difficult. Do we desire the attention or perhaps, the fifteen minutes of accolades and positive affirmation by announcing our good deed? Something deep inside of each of us does desire to be known as a generous person. It feels good to be the “savior” of another and have the spotlight turned in our direction.
However, I submit to you that these feelings are not of God, but of our flesh which is constantly at war against the Spirit of God that lives inside of us. There is a pastoral secret about giving I want to share. Your giving is in direct proportion to your relationship with God. I can tell if you walk the walk or just talk the talk? If you believe God’s promises, you will give generously because you know He will provide for you and that you cannot out give God. However, if you really don’t believe God’s promises, then you will feel no need to give, but will throw in some pocket change and “tip” God as the offering bag goes by.
We can discover our motives behind giving by carefully examining our hearts. It is not easy, but through practice and a conscious effort, i.e., purposefully living, one can obtain a right motive. David asks God to renew a right spirit within him…and that is my prayer for you today. Let us exalt the One who is, instead of exalting ourselves.
Hear the Word of the Lord:
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But ‘when’ you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:5-8; N.I.V.).