Summary: An examination of the importance of motives.
WHY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHAT
The story is told of a young family that went to visit some friends. The couple’s young son kept running around the house and wouldn’t settle down. The boy’s dad told him to sit down several times. The young boy would sit down for a minute and then he’d be up running again. Finally, exasperated, the dad told his son, “You sit down right there and don’t you get up until I tell you to.” The young boy, sat down on the couch, looked at his dad and said, “I may be sitting down, but on the inside I’m standing up.”
There are those who believe that if we do the right things, that’s good enough. If I say the right things to my wife, if I put in the required time at work, if I do what the church says, then that’s good enough. My friend, I want you to know that others might let you get away with that, but God will not. When it comes to Him, why you do something is at least as important as what you do. Your motives make all the difference in the world.
- Read Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18.
In this passage we find Jesus continuing His preaching of the Sermon on the Mount. In chapter 6 Jesus begins with a warning. He says in verse 1, “Beware.” Let me give you a tip. When Jesus tells you to beware of something, you had best be on your guard. Notice the danger Jesus warns us about. Jesus isn’t warning us about laziness. He takes for granted that everyone that calls themselves disciples of His will be working. No, the danger Jesus warns us about is the danger of doing what we do for the wrong reasons. He is warning us about doing what we do with the wrong motives. Notice the 3 examples Jesus gives of people doing good things for the wrong reasons.
I. WRONG MOTIVES FOR GOOD ACTS
1. Don’t serve wanting people’s praise – v2
In verse 2, Jesus talks about giving alms. Some of the people in Jesus’ day, used to make a big fuss and a lot of noise when they went to give at the temple, or when they went to help the poor. They wanted people to see everything they did. They wanted the “atta boys” the recognition for being helpful or generous givers. Sadly, there are many people doing good things for the same reason today, even in churches. They can’t give anything, they can’t serve in a ministry of the church, they can’t help anyone without letting other people know everything they do. You know what Jesus says about such people? He says, “They have their reward.” All the good they do, they won’t get any reward from God, because they did it to get the praise of other people.
2. Don’t pray to please people – v5 In Jesus’ time, many of religious Jews would pray at set times, several times a day. But some people would make sure they were on the busiest corner of the busiest street when it came time to pray because they wanted everyone to see them do it.
My friends, there is nothing wrong with praying in public. Jesus and His disciples did so many times. We are encouraged to pray with other believers. There is power in united prayer. The problem comes in when you begin praying to please people, or to be noticed by them, instead of praying to be heard by God.
It saddens me that they have effectively kicked prayer out of our schools. What saddens me even more is the number of people who complain about not being able to pray at school, who never pray at home. If there had been more people praying at home, then I believe we would still be able to pray in our schools. I wonder how many of the people who make a big deal about praying at ball games, actually pray at home?
And, have you ever noticed the difference in the prayers of new Christians and the prayers of people who have been in church for a long time? You ever notice how new Christians often pray exactly what’s on their hearts while folks who have been Christians for a while often pray using big and religious sounding words that they don’t even know the meaning of? You know what Jesus says about that? He says, those who pray to please other people or who pray to impress, have all the reward they’re going to get. Their prayers aren’t going any further than the ceiling.
Jesus gives a 3rd example of wrong motives in verse 16.
3. Don’t fast to get recognition – v16
In Jesus’ day, the Jewish religion called for fasting several times a year. There were others though, who fasted several times a week, and who made sure everyone knew they were fasting when they did so. They wanted to get recognition. They wanted to get a reputation for being spiritual.