Summary: What motivates our acts of worship and piety?
One of the great blessings in preaching verse-by-verse through Books or Sections of the Bible is that you begin to more easily pick up on patterns which are contained within the text.
These patterns might easily be missed if we jumped around from passage to passage, book to book.
But working through large portions of the text help us to see a direction which the author is taking and helps us ensure that we are interpreting the text properly because we are clearly confronted with the immediate context of the passage.
I mention this because today we are beginning a new chapter in the Gospel of Matthew.
We have been in a verse-by-verse study of the Sermon on the Mount.
And what we have seen so far is that Jesus has established a pattern in this sermon - - - a pattern of correction.
He is confronting common misunderstandings of the people of His day, in particular the Jewish leadership.
The Pharisees had misinterpreted and misapplied God’s commands, and as a result there was great confusion and corruption among the people.
We are going to see that in this new chapter, Jesus is about to shift His focus a bit.
He is going to continue to correct error.
But He is going to refocus His attention on areas of worship and personal piety.
He is going to focus on three key areas: Giving, Praying and Fasting.
He is going to teach us that is it not just what we DO that is important, but what MOTIVATES us is the key.
READ: Matthew 6:1
The overarching purpose of the Sermon on the Mount is to correct error.
We just concluded chapter 5, and we noted that it was primarily concerned with correcting misinterpretations of the Law of God.
The Pharisees had taken the laws regarding murder, adultery, divorce, oaths and retaliation and turned them on their heads.
So Jesus - as the author and Lord of the Law - demonstrates their failure in a masterful exposition which followed the pattern of “You have heard it said... but I say to you...”
When we arrive at Matthew 6, Jesus is now concerned with correcting failures in the worship of God.
His pattern is shifting away from the “you have heard it said...but I say...”
Now, His new pattern will focus on the difference in receiving a reward from men and a reward from God.
The first verse makes the primary point which Jesus will give exposition of in this chapter.
Matt 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.
This is not a hard verse to understand.
Simply stated: Personal acts of worship and piety are not meant to be performed as a show unto men. God is the only audience we should concern ourselves with in worship; He is our audience of one.
And what follows this verse is a series of examples which Jesus uses to drive this point home. He says that...
Giving is not to be done as a show
Praying is not to be done as a show
Fasting is not to be done as a show
[[ These are all outlined in the first half of chapter 6. ]]
Much like in the last half of chapter 5 Jesus had a pattern of saying, “You have heard it said...but I say to you...”, in this portion His pattern shifts to focusing on not doing our acts as shows unto men, but rather unto God.
There is another important contrast between the last half of chapter five and the first half of chapter 6 which needs to be recognized.
In chapter 5, Jesus discusses things which are “BAD”:
- Murder and hatred
- Adultery and lust
- Unfaithfulness and divorce
- Unfulfilled oaths and lying
- Hatred and retaliation
In chapter 6, however, He discusses things which are “GOOD”:
The point that we need to understand is that even though these things are “good” things, they can be done in a “bad” way.
Not all giving is godly giving!
Not all prayer is godly prayer!
Not all fasting is godly fasting!
Christ wants us to realize that we not only have to seek to keep from doing things which are inherently “unrighteous”, but we must also strive to ensure that our “righteous” acts are properly motivated and performed.
Its not enough just to refrain from those things which are bad; we need to properly perform the things which are good.
This portion of the sermon is also hearkening back to an earlier statement made by Christ in this sermon.
Jesus said in chapter 5 that our “righteousness” should “exceed” that of the Pharisees.