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Newtown Bible Church

True Christianity & Sincere Giving (Matthew 6:2-4)

Christians are those, who by definition recognize all things as being given to them by God; especially Christ Himself in the gospel. A true Christian who does not give to meet the needs of others is an oxymoron; it is incongruous with the truth.

So, that Christians, that those who walk in true righteousness are giving people is assumed. But as with all things the Lord is utmost concerned with the motivation not the deed itself.

 

3 key truths about Christian giving that help God's people glorify Him.

 

(1) It is an assumed activity of righteousness. 

(2) It must not be in hypocrisy and pride

(3) It will receive God's blessing, when sincere

 

READ: Matthew 6:1-4.

 

(1) The necessity of Christian giving.

Notice first the “Therefore” which should always make you ask: “What is the ‘Therefore’ there for?” - it is building on something previously said; here it is the Lord’s application of the principle clearly set down in 6:1. Namely, a warning against the sin of doing “righteous” deeds with the wrong motive.

“When you give …” The Lord will use the present tense verbs 10x in these 4 verses; this an assumed.

It’s basic meaning is giving to the poor, but with the particular idea of a response of compassion; either spontaneous, or planned it is a gift designed to meet a need (not a tithe).

(1) It was commanded in the Law (Lev. 19:10).

(2) Call of the prophets: Speaking of a righteous king: Jer. 22:16 “ He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy … Is that not what it means to know Me?”

(3) God singles out this particular fruit above others (cf: Acts 10:2-4).

(4) Consistent concern with the apostle Paul: (Gal. 2:10; Rom. 15:25-27).

(5) Necessary evidence of true faith. James 2:14-20; 1 John 3:16-17.

So, giving alms, caring for the poor and needy, was a necessary fruit of a genuine righteousness; In the Jewish mind giving alms was considered the chief of good works. The rabbis taught: “He who gives alms in secret is greater than Moses.”

However, because of its preeminence, it also went too far. According to apocryphal writings, the giving of alms even atoned for sin (partly why the RCC adopted them into the canon at the Council of Trent [1545]).

 

Tobit 12:8-9: “Prayer is good with fasting and alms and righteousness … It is better to give alms than to lay up gold; for alms doth deliver form death, and shall purge away all sin. Those that exercise alms and righteousness shall be filled with life.”

 

Ecclesiasticus (aka, Sirach) 3:30 “Water will quench a flaming fire; and alms maketh an atonement for sins.”

 

- So, alms giving had great weight it had in Jewish thinking. Though it was taken too far; it is nonetheless something commanded by God and recognized as a mark of righteousness. So, the giving of alms in itself was not the issue, God’s people should be gracious and hold loosely to the things of this world. The problem the Lord is addressing is, again, the heart. Not “What you give?” but “Why you give?”

 

(2) The warning of hypocritical giving.

“do sound a trumpet before you just as the hypocrites do” - The Lord is making a comparison; give alms (this is righteous), but just don’t do it like this, like the hypocrites.

What is a hypocrite?

(1) The term originally probably meant “to interpret,” and was later applied to the stage actor who interpreted the meaning of the poet to portray a character on stage. The term was also used to refer the rhetoric of the orator, whose skill was in presenting information with power and ethos (whether true or false, whether believed or not).

(2) By the time of the NT, it had come to have a very negative connotation. So, for the Lord a hypocrite: one who actually appeared to be righteous, but was inside full of ungodliness. A religious actor.

“the hardest word that Jesus has for any class of people and he employs it for these pious pretenders who pose as perfect.”

And surely it was convincing on the outside - they seemed to be perfect; they were meticulous givers and tither’s (Matt. 23:23) - you couldn’t fault them for not giving!

The problem was how they gave: “blowing a trumpet before you”

What is the Lord referring to?

(1) There is no record in rabbinical literature of this exact event happening. There have been many suggestions about what the Lord is referring to, however none fit the context.

(2) Jesus is simply using figurative language (“light of the world” “log in your own eye”) to make a simple point: hypocrites give so that they may receive themselves the praise of men; don’t do it such a way that you deliberately bring attention to yourself.

Prov. 20:6 speak of the man who “proclaims his own loyalty,” which carries the same idea of the one who is quick to announce their righteousness and reasons to be admired by others.

Where did they do this? “Synagogues … streets”

Synagogue was the place of worship for all faithful Jews (the OT version of going to church) and could be formed with at least 10 men. It is estimated that by the destruction of Herod’s temple in 70AD there were more than a thousand synagogues serving over 1 million Jews. Key in both the ministry of Jesus (regularly seen in the synagogues) and Paul who in every city first went to preach the gospel in the synagogues.

Some trace its existence back to the post-exilic situation of the Jews (after the temple was destroyed), and note Neh. 8:1.

A synagogue was the place where section from the Law were read, then explained and applied, along with the teaching which came through oral tradition.

 

“The synagogue was the center of community, religious, and social life for the Jewish people … Organized charity, as well as hospitality, was characteristic of Judaism. In Palestine there were community agencies for feeding the poor, clothing the needy, caring for the sick, burying the dead, ransoming captives, educating orphans, and providing poor girls with dowries.”

 

Philo: “Accordingly, on the seventh day there are spread before the people in every city innumerable lessons of prudence and temperance, and courage, and justice and all other virtues; during the giving of which the common people sit down, keeping silence and pricking up their ears, with all possible attention, form their thirst for wholesome instruction; but some of those who are very learned explain to them what is of great importance and use, lessons by which the whole of their lives may be improved. And there are, as we may say, two most especially important heads of all the innumerable particular lessons and doctrines; the regulating of one’s conduct towards God by the rules of piety and holiness, and of one’s conduct towards men by the rules of humanity and justice; each of which is subdivide into a great number of subordinate ideas, all praiseworthy.”

 

“the streets” - small streets and alleys common to Jerusalem and the surrounding cities and towns of the day; that’s where the people were!

In the parable of Luke 14:21 “Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, 'Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.'”

The “synagogues … streets” were the perfect places for the external show of piety. The perfect stage for the actor who plays the part of the righteous; there is always a willing and eager audience to give the appropriate applause to a performance well done. Sometimes, I am sure, to even receive a standing ovation.

What did they do: drew attention to their deeds. Where: where the people were. Why did they do this? “to be glorified by them” - the only other use of this term is 5:16, where the glory is to go to God alone. Glory is the end of both; one directed toward God the other toward self: parallel to “to be noticed” (1).

To “be glorified” simply means to be lifted up, honored, your life and deeds be given weight to the minds, hearts, and conscience of men; so that the thought of your righteous deeds is held by then in high regard. To be thought worthy of the affections and esteem of others. It is the attitude that when recognized by others thinks they are getting exactly what they deserve; are thankful that there designs were successful and their goal achieved.

“they have received their reward in full” - God does not withhold it from them: If you want glory from men, fine, you can have it. So, the hypocrite basks in the full glory they receive from “men of the world, whose portion is in this life” (Ps. 17:14). but it is all they will receive and in the end judgment. God will not share His glory with another.

It is this same self-righteous, proud, hypocrisy that keeps religious but not righteous people from understanding the gospel and coming to a knowledge of the truth: [TURN TO] **John 5:39-47**.

 

(3) The blessing of sincere giving

- “but you [when] you give alms do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” - this is how Christians are to conduct their giving and charity.

What does He mean by this statement? It is obviously a *figure of speech since it would be impossible for to hide the actions of one hand from another since both are attached to the same person and under the direction of a single mind and will!

(1) The point is this: do it with a self-forgetfulness. In other words, with the attitude of single devotion to Christ, in which the deed is done without consideration of self (i.e. Personal sacrifice, merit, self aggrandizement, desire for recognition, superior righteousness, personal benevolence), but for the glory of Christ in serving another. It is serving without self-consciousness, but with a self-forgetfulness.

 

Broadus: “It suggest the pleasing and striking image of a man passing one who is in need, and with his right hand giving alms in so quiet a way that, so to speak, even his own left hand does not know what is going on.”

 

Stott: “We are not to be self-conscious in our giving, for our self-consciousness will readily deteriorate into self-righteousness. So subtle is the sinfulness of the heart that it is possible to take deliberate steps to keep our giving secret from men while simultaneously dwelling on it in our own minds in a spirit of self-congratulation.”

 

(2) It is letting God keep an account of what we do, not us keeping our own. If we often think about, or can even remember every act of kindness that we have done, or if in our remembering there is a certain satisfaction with personal righteousness, or the sense of being slighted because it was never properly recognized, then it was probably not done with the right heart, but in hypocrisy. (cf. Matt. 25:37-39 is an illustration of this principle).

 

Luther: “If we cease our charitable deeds because men are ungrateful, that shows that we were not aiming to please and honor God.”

 

Lenski: “The whole matter is in the heart, it is not a mechanical rule about hiding our gifts. For one might hide all his giving in the secret hope of eventually being discovered and then being praised for the saintly secrecy of his gifts.”

 

“so that your alms may be in secret” - “in secret” - in contrast to the “synagogues … streets” - Away from the view of others, away from the view of the watching world in order to receive praise and admiration from them. It is the doing deeds with the awareness that someone is watching, but it is God and not men.

Apparently the Mishna mentioned a “Chamber of Secrets” in the Temple where devout Jews could go unnoticed and leave a gift and the needy would then come and receive without knowing who their benefactor was.

your Father who is seeing in secret shall repay you” - nothing is ever really done in secret! (Gen. 18:11-14). Simply understanding the nature of God!

(1) God is in every place simultaneously in the fullness of His Being. Acts 17:28 “In Him we live and move and have our being.” Omnipresent.

(2) Knows all things past, present, future; actual and possible, with perfect knowledge and understanding. Heb. 4:13 “nothing hidden from His sight.” Omniscience.

 

Jer. 17:10 “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind.”

23:23-24 “Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?”

Prov. 15:3 “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, watching the evil and the good”

 

The Lord knows: [TURN TO] Mark 12:41-44 “A poor widow came and put … in more than all the contributors to the treasury.”

“He shall repay” - it is a payment that will come in the future, it is a postponed payment. There is the present joy that comes through obedience. There will be the future reward of greater experience of the blessings of Christ for all eternity. For the Christian the reward is the glory of God and the joy of obedience and greater fellowship with Him.

The sin is not in the reward, just the opposite the sin is in forfeiting the reward because of hypocrisy and the foolishness of self-righteousness. The desire for reward in and of itself is not wrong, though they wanted the wrong reward (self-exaltation), for the wrong reasons (praise of men), and from the wrong people (men rather than God) -

What are some principles we can look to to guide our giving? [TURN TO] 2 Cor. 8-9 note at least 6 guidelines:

(1) In Faith according to the grace in our hearts (2 Cor. 8:1, 5; 9:8, 10, 14).

(1) Sacrificial (2 Cor. 8; 2 Sam. 24:24)

*According to ability (8:3, 12). (don’t go into debt)

(2) Generous (2 Cor. 8:3; 9:5)

(3) Motivated by love (8:8, 24).

(4) Joyful Integrity (2 Cor. 9:7 [5])

(5) In response to real need (not laziness) (2 Thess. 3:10)

(6) As an act of worship:

(A) Aimed at God’s glory (8:19, 23; 9:11, 12,13).

(B) Motivated by Christ’s sacrifice (2 Cor. 8:9; 9:15)

**This is the heart of everything said thus far, the heart of the Christian life. Giving is but one expression of worship, of a life lived in gratitude for Christ, for the gospel, for love of the One who gave Himself up for me.

So, giving is to be done, but neither giving, or any part of the Christian life is ever to be seen as just a sense of duty, but as an act of worship; a life live in the expression of gratitude, thankfulness, and obedience to the crucified and Risen Lord. “You have been bought with a price therefore, glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20).

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