Sermon on the Mount Lesson Sixteen

Do Not Judge – Matthew 7:1-6

In this lesson we’ll tackle the issue of being judgmental towards others.

“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.  For with the judgment you use,  you will be judged, and with the measure you use,  it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs,  or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces. (HCSB)

The first thing to note about verses 1-5 is that they are one of the most misunderstood and misquoted passages in the entire Bible. Jesus is not making a blanket prohibition against any form of judgment or discernment against another believer. Jesus is saying that these should never be done in a spirit of self-centered pride and without first examining yourself for sinful behavior.

Verses 1-2

“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.  For with the judgment you use,  you will be judged, and with the measure you use,  it will be measured to you. 

Jesus doesn’t state precisely what is being judged. However, we should interpret this in light of a general application of judging someone else. The Greek verb for judge, krino, has several different understandings depending on the context within which it is used.

  • Ordinary discernment of evaluation. Luke 7:43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one he forgave more.”
  • Judicial litigation. Matthew 5:40 As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well.
  • Bestow a reward. Matthew 19:28 Jesus said to them, “I assure you: In the Messianic Age, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel.
  • Pronouncement of guilt. John 7:51 Our law doesn’t judge a man before it hears from him and knows what he’s doing, does it?
  • Absolute determination of one’s fate. Matthew 5:22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire.

Jesus is warning His followers of practicing the last two on the list. We are not to set ourselves over others and make a determination of their guilt before God.

This warning is also the opposite of the blessing Jesus mentioned in Matthew 5:7 The merciful are blessed, for they will be shown mercy. It is also the fifth petition in the Disciple’s Prayer. Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

True followers of Christ will not exhibit a pattern of judging others, and displaying a pattern of judgment against others is an indicator that the person not a true member of the Kingdom of Heaven. When disciples develop a condemning and critical attitude as a pattern in their lives, it shows they have forced love out of their relationships with others.

Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talked about failures that make us apathetic in our Christian service. Those failures are the love of money and worrying. Both of these will make our witness ineffective as our focus is not on God or serving Him. However, a certain kind of zeal can also ruin our witness. That is a zeal for judging others, and it will turn the practitioner into a sharp and unjust critic of their Christian brothers and sisters.

Verses 3-5

Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Here Jesus is engaging in hyperbole to communicate His point. Let’s make a couple of observations before we discuss these verses further.

  • Jesus is addressing His followers when He uses the term “brother.” Although this shouldn’t stop us from addressing issues with unbelievers, we must remember that they have a completely different set of values as non-Christians.
  • Jesus is not forbidding us from addressing issues in the lives of others. However, Jesus is saying that there is a process to ensure we do it correctly.
  • This is a jab at the self-righteousness exhibited by the Pharisees.

As I wrote in the introduction, Jesus is not telling us we can’t correct our brothers and sisters when they stray from the path. But it has to be done in the proper spirit, the spirit of love and correction, so it doesn’t happen again, not in a spirit of condemnation. Jesus did this with the woman caught in adultery in John 8:11b “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” There are two important points to remember in this short statement.

  • Jesus is not condoning her behavior. Too often, believers focus on the first part, not being condemned. It’s wonderful that as a follower of Christ, we are forgiven when we fall and confess our sins.
  • The more important part of the verse is at the end in the form of a command, “do not sin anymore.”

When we confront a brother or sister who is sinning, the goal should always be restoration and not condemnation. Let’s consider some passages that illustrate the wrong and right ways to address sinful behavior.

  • Romans 14:10 But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God. The word “criticize” here is a condemning judgment.
  • Romans 2:1 Therefore, any one of you who judges is without excuse. For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things. Here the word “judge” is a condemning judgment reserved for God and carried out by a hypocritical person.
  • 1 Corinthians 4:3 Therefore don’t judge anything prematurely, before the Lord comes, who will both bring to light what is hidden in darkness and reveal the intentions of the hearts. And then praise will come to each one from God. The word “judge” is used here in a judicial sense, as in a court of law. Another point is that we will likely never know the full details of the situation. To judge without full knowledge is foolish judgment. Only God can search our hearts and know the full truth.
  • Matthew 18:15 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. 17 If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you. When a brother or sister is found in sin, there is a process to follow. Although rarely addressed in the modern church, there is a process for church discipline that Jesus laid out for us.
  • Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted. Restoration is to be done in the spirit of love.

There are three principles we should remember as to why we should never judge another person.

  • We won’t know all of the facts or the entire person; we can’t search their hearts.
  • It is impossible for fallen and sinful people, even the most devoted follower of Christ, to be completely impartial in our judgment.
  • None of us is good enough to judge another person. There is only one judge. James 4:12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

A succinct summary of verses 1-5 is, “Do not judge others until you are prepared to be judged by the same standard. And then, when you exercise judgment towards, do it with humility.”

Verse 6

Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.

At first glance, this verse seems misplaced. However, there is a connection between this verse and the preceding verses. In the first five verses, Jesus is warning against hypocritical judgment of others. In verse 6, Jesus is warning against naïve acceptance. Matthew 10:16 Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves.

As Christians, we need to strike a difficult balance between the characteristics of a serpent and a dove. We will continuously need to make evaluations in our lives, and a balance must be struck. The serpent was the picture of wisdom, shrewdness, mental keenness, and the dove represented simple innocence.

  • Genesis 3:1a Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made.
  • Psalms 58:5 That does not listen to the sound of the charmers who skillfully weave spells.
  • Hosea 7:11a So Ephraim has become like a silly, senseless dove;

Without innocence, the keenness of the snake is crafty, a devious menace; without keenness, the innocence of the dove is naive, helpless gullibility.

We need to interpret this verse in two ways.

  • The early church was attacked from the outside (persecution) as well as the inside (heresy). Persecution is easy to understand. However, the potential for heresy came about because Christianity was in its infancy, and there were those who tried to fuse pagan beliefs into Christianity. The modern church is facing these same issues today.
    • Persecution against the church and individual Christians is on the rise.
    • There are false theological positions being promoted openly.
      • Those who believe Genesis chapters 1-11 are fictional. This opens up pandora’s box. If you don’t believe in the first 11 chapters, how can you honestly believe in the rest?
      • The overemphasis on grace and the underemphasis on obedience, judgment, and hell.
      • Biblical fact that God created two sexes, man and woman, to be joined as one in marriage. The Bible speaks explicitly against homosexual behavior. The only conclusion is that same sex-marriage is a false teaching and a perversion of Scripture.
  • It was used by the Jews to undermine the simplicity of the Gospel. They believed that God’s gifts and grace were solely for the Jews. They argued that anyone converting to Christianity needed to be circumcised and submit to Old Testament Law.

The thing that is holy and the pearls in this verse are the Gospel message. The dogs and pigs are likely unbelievers and active enemies of the Gospel. Jesus is not telling His followers not to share the Gospel, but He is saying that after prolonged rejection, reproach, and harassment, it is best to move on and share with others. This is precisely the methodology that Paul applied on his mission trips.

  • Acts 13:46 Then Paul and Barnabas boldly said: “It was necessary that God’s message be spoken to you first. But since you reject it and consider yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles!
  • Acts 18:6 But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook his robe and told them, “Your blood is on your own heads!  I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
  • Acts 19:9 But when some became hardened and would not believe, slandering the Way in front of the crowd, he withdrew from them and met separately with the disciples, conducting discussions every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.

How do we apply this passage?

  • When you judge others, because it will happen, examine the spirit in which you do it. Do you take a loving, humble, and restorative approach, or are you condescending, vindictive, and condemning?
  • Do you make sure your life is in order, and you are not hypocritical? If you’re not willing to walk the walk, you shouldn’t talk the talk.
  • Don’t shy away from the opportunities to correct and restore a fallen brother or sister. Just because we need to be careful in how we do doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.
  • Don’t be naïve in dealing with a lost world. It’s a delicate balancing act, and there is wiggle room in how each of us would interpret and react to any given situation. At the same time, there is biblical support for withdrawing from those who are either unresponsive to the Gospel or are openly hostile to it.

Sermon on the Mount Lesson Thirteen

Biblical Fasting – Matthew 6:16-18

In this lesson we’ll look at Jesus’ instructions to His disciples on how to fast.

16 “Whenever you fast, don’t be sad-faced like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so their fasting is obvious to people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head, and wash your face, 18 so that you don’t show your fasting to people but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (HCSB)

Before diving into this short passage, the one key term, fasting, must be defined to properly understand what Jesus is telling His disciples.

Fasting differed in purpose and practice between the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, there were three general types of fast:

  • Normal – no food was eaten for a predetermined period of time, but liquids may be permitted.
  • Partial – eating food was limited but not completely forbidden.
  • Absolute – no food or liquids of any form were consumed during the fast.

And Old Testament fasts were done calm God’s wrath and move Him away from executing judgment. Fasting was always associated with a mournful attitude.

  • During times of emergencies, the people fasted to prevent disaster:
    • Judges 20:26 – The whole Israelite army went to Bethel where they wept and sat before the Lord.  They fasted that day until evening and offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the Lord.
    • 1 Samuel 7:6 – When they gathered at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out in the Lord’s presence.  They fasted that day,  and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.”  And Samuel judged the Israelites at Mizpah.
    • 1 Kings 21:9 – In the letters, she wrote: Proclaim a fast and seat Naboth at the head of the people.
    • 2 Chronicles 20:3 – Jehoshaphat was afraid, and he resolved  to seek the Lord. Then he proclaimed a fast  for all Judah.
    • Jeremiah 36:6 – so you must go and read from the scroll—which you wrote at my dictation —the words of the Lord in the hearing of the people at the temple of the Lord on a day of fasting. You must also read them in the hearing of all the Judeans who are coming from their cities.
  • Liberation from trouble. 
    • 2 Samuel 12:16-20 – 16 David pleaded with God for the boy. He fasted, went home, and spent the night lying on the ground.  17 The elders of his house stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he was unwilling and would not eat anything with them. 18 On the seventh day the baby died. But David’s servants were afraid to tell him the baby was dead. They said, “Look, while the baby was alive, we spoke to him, and he wouldn’t listen to us. So how can we tell him the baby is dead? He may do something desperate.” 19 When David saw that his servants were whispering to each other, he guessed that the baby was dead. So he asked his servants, “Is the baby dead?” “He is dead,” they replied. 20 Then David got up from the ground. He washed, anointed himself, changed his clothes, went to the Lord’s house, and worshiped. Then he went home and requested something to eat. So they served him food, and he ate.
    • 1 Kings 21:27 – When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put sackcloth over his body, and fasted. He lay down in sackcloth  and walked around subdued.
    • Psalm 35:13 – Yet when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled myself with fasting, and my prayer was genuine.
    • Psalm 69:10 – I mourned and fasted, but it brought me insults.
  • Commitment to prayer.
    • Ezra 8:21 – I proclaimed a fast  by the Ahava River,  so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask Him for a safe journey for us, our children, and all our possessions.
    • Nehemiah 1:4 – When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. I mourned for a number of days, fasting and praying  before the God of heaven.
  • On the Day of Atonement to mourn their sins and reconcile with God.

However, fasting became abused and turned into a public spectacle instead of a humble submission, and Yahweh rejected such fasts:

  • Jeremiah 14:12 – “If they fast, I will not hear their cry of despair. If they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. Rather, I will finish them off by sword, famine, and plague.”
  • Isaiah 58:1-10

By the time of Jesus, fasting had developed into a rabbinic tradition to demonstration piety that was largely ritualistic. However, Jesus’ understanding of fasting is significant in that it represents a shift in the role of fasting. His initial attitude undoubtedly reflected the fact that he grew up participating in the regular fasts and therefore shared the prevailing teachings of his day. Yet, his mature teaching about fasting breaks with the rabbinic tradition.

  • Jesus’ first concept of fasting is from the viewpoint of dependence on God during the temptation in the wilderness.
    • Matthew 4:2 – After He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights,  He was hungry.
    • Luke 4:2 – for 40 days  to be tempted by the Devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over,  He was hungry.
  • Jesus ushers in the beginning of eschatological times, breaking the power of the evil age. Old Testament fasting is no longer consistent with the spirit of thanksgiving and joy that Jesus brings. However, the Kingdom is not fully here, and fasting still has its place.
    • Fasting must be done in the context of joyful thanksgiving of our new life in Christ.
    • New Covenant fasting should be done in the context of our prayer life: quietness before God, from a sense of gratitude, expressing thanksgiving, grounded in faith, leading to spiritual growth.

Now that fasting has been defined, let’s look at what Jesus is telling His disciples about fasting.

Verse 16  “Whenever you fast, don’t be sad-faced like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so their fasting is obvious to people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward!

Notice the first word of the passage, “whenever.” This implies that Jesus’ followers are to fast. This isn’t descriptive; it’s prescriptive. At the same time, it is essential to fast with the proper attitude.

  • Privately before God.
  • Not in public.
  • Jesus is telling His disciples how not to fast in verse 16.
  • Those who make fasting a public display have already received their reward from others; no further reward will come from God.

Verse 17-18   17 But when you fast, put oil on your head, and wash your face, 18 so that you don’t show your fasting to people but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Verse 17 This is basically a call to appear “normal” and not as one who is fasting. For someone to wash their face and put oil on their head was to act in a manner that would not indicate to others that they were fasting.

Verse 18  Only God should know that a follower of Christ is fasting. Of course, there are exceptions to this:

  • A church-wide fast.
  • A fast by members of a small group.
  • A family fasting together.
  • This list is not exhaustive but should give you an understanding of principles.

Fasting done with the proper attitude and in private is honored and rewarded by God.

Let’s a quick look at five reasons fasting is a positive thing to do.

  • Good for your health. Let’s be honest; the modern western world is overfed and under-exercised. Enjoying food is not a sin, within reason, but do you live to eat or eat to live?
  • Good for self-discipline. This is the counter to the self-indulgent world in which we live where self-denial is frowned upon.
  • Prevents us from becoming slaves to a habit. We can fast from more than food. The modern habit that is enslaving the world is our connection to cellphones and social media.
  • Preserved the ability to do without things. What things or items in your life are really essential? The smaller the number, the more independence you will have.
  • Makes us appreciate what we do have all the more. Are we so used to being “satisfied” that we’ve become dull to what we consider normal while people in other parts of the world live day-by-day?

How do we apply this short passage to our lives?

  • Do you fast? Jesus makes it clear that fasting is not optional. Fasting doesn’t have to be from food. It can be from anything you have placed a dependence on: cellphone, television, computer, social media, or anything else that fits the criteria.
  • When we fast, do we do it with the proper attitude? Do we do it to draw closer to God, help with our prayer life, or to bring a petition of an area of our life before God?
  • This section on the Sermon on the Mount is addressing an inside-out change. Examine yourself. Are you more concerned with external appearance or inner transformation? One leads to spiritual growth and relationship with God, and the other leads to spiritual decay and death.

Sermon on the Mount Lesson Twelve

The Disciples’ Prayer – Matthew 6:5-15

Today we’ll look at a passage that is well known and often called, incorrectly, the Lord’s Prayer. One only has to look at verse 12 asking for forgiveness of debts (sins) to understand this is a prayer Jesus would not need to pray. It is important not to get into a semantics discussion, but the prayer is focused on how Jesus’ disciples should pray.

“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward!  But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble like the idolaters,  since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words.  Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him. “Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.14 “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing,  your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.  15 But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.

Verses 5-8 set up the general guidelines for prayer.

  • Public prayer is not condemned, but public prayer to draw attention to yourself is.
    • Those who pray to draw attention to themselves are hypocritical in their pious behavior; there is a direct correlation between hypocritical prayer and hypocritical giving in the previous section. Both represent a heart problem.
    • They will receive their “reward” from other people but forfeit any reward from God.
  • Repetitious or babbling prayer is condemned.
    • Rote repetition without thinking is useless.
    • This is how the pagans prayed to their gods.
    • Using this method to manipulate God is foolish.
  • Long prayers are not condemned – Luke 6:12 During those days He went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God.

Verses 9-13 represent the format on how to pray, not a formula or rote memorization without thinking about what Jesus’ followers are to pray.

  • Jesus is not commanding His followers to pray, but He is inviting them to pray.
  • Jesus is giving a model for how to pray, not verbatim repetition.
  • The order in the prayer falls in line with Old and New Testament practices of placing God first and then personal need in the context of community.
  • It ranges from honoring God’s name, kingdom, and will to the daily themes of food, sins, and temptations.

It begins with the term “Father,” which in the Greek is “Abba,” a term used by children for their earthly fathers and indicates a sense of warmth and intimacy in the security of their father’s presence. There is another connection here. The expression “our Father” indicates a relationship with have not only with God but with other believers. We are part of the spiritual family of God.

Following the initial address to God in verse nine, there are six appeals. The first three pertain to God, the vertical relationship. The last three concern human needs, the horizontal relationships. We are always to place God first and then our needs and the needs of our neighbors. This is the same order that the Ten Commandments take.

  • That God’s name is honored as holy.
  • The final Kingdom of Jesus would come.
  • God’s will would be done.
    • John 4:34  “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work,” Jesus told them.
    • Matthew 26:39  Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”
    • Romans 8:18-25
  • Asking for daily sustenance Philippians 4:6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
  • Confession of our sins (debts) – this area should decrease as we mature.
  • Preparation for spiritual battle – this area should increase as we mature.

Note that the word “and” appears between the last three. This emphasizes that these are the constant needs of God’s people. Also, note that there is no “and” between deliverance from temptation and deliverance from evil. They belong together as one request as the evil one is the one who tempts. God may test us but never tempt us.

Another fascinating thing to note about the last part is the unity and the three periods of time that all humans experience in bringing things before God.

  • Asking for bread brings the needs of the present.
  • Asking for forgiveness brings the past.
  • Asking for help in temptation commits the future into God’s hands.

We are to lay the past, present, and future before God and trust in His grace, mercy, and provision.

Verses 14-15  Jesus reemphasizes the fifth appeal of forgiving others. Our salvation does not depend on our merits or what we do. It is solely on the mercy and grace of God. Once we have received God’s forgiveness and salvation, we are to extend that same forgiveness to others,

Matthew 18:21-35. Receiving God’s forgiveness should motivate us to forgive others.

Applications

  • Examine your prayer life in multiple areas.
    • Do you have a prayer life? Is it vibrant? Is it more than 5 or 10 minutes a day? Do you do it for show? Is it mechanical?
    • Some people view prayer as either a mystical activity or a formula activity. Yes, there is an element of mystery, but I would encourage you to approach prayer as if you’re talking to your father because you are!
    • Spill out your heart but don’t worry about sounding eloquent. God is not worried about form over substance in our prayer lives.
  •  Look at the format of the Disciples’ Prayer as a skeleton that you fill in the rest with your words.
    • Honoring God.
    • Praying for Jesus’ return.
    • Praying for God’s will to be accomplished.
    • Praying for our needs and the needs of others.
    • Confessing our sins.
    • Preparation for spiritual warfare.
  • Two acronyms to structure your prayer life
    • ACTS
      • Adoration
      • Confession
      • Thanksgiving
      • Supplication
    • TACS
      • Thanksgiving
      • Adoration
      • Confession
      • Supplication
  • Forgiving others
    • Do you forgive, or do you become resentful and try to “get even?”
    • Just as we are forgiven, we are to forgive others.
    • This is challenging as our “human” tendency is to retaliate in some way. Followers of Jesus are expected to refrain from that. Instead, extending mercy and grace to those who harm us in some way.

Sermon on the Mount Lesson Eleven

How to Give – Matthew 6:1-4

Part eleven in my series on the Sermon on the Mount. This lesson will address giving the Jesus way.

6 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness  in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward!  But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Verse 1 serves as an introduction to the section 6:1-18 warning against acts of righteousness before men and losing your reward from God the Father in heaven.

It should also be noted that verse 1 does not contradict what Jesus said in Matthew 5:16 as 6:1 is done for a selfish motive, and 5:16 is done to glorify God.

It’s also easy to forget that in Jesus’ time, there were no social welfare programs to help the poor, the widows, the orphans, or those who were sick. The programs that we take for granted were a void in the ancient world, often resulting in death to those who found themselves in one of the situations listed above. The Law addresses this back in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 15:11  For there will never cease to be poor people in the land;  that is why I am commanding you, ‘You must willingly open your hand to your afflicted and poor brother in your land.’

But the main thrust of the passage is Jesus warning against doing acts of kindness or charity for the wrong reason. Once again, it is the condition of the heart when taking action that is important. If a person’s motives for participating in charitable activities are to draw attention to themselves, then the only acknowledgment they will get is from other people, not God. The very act of public religious practices is dangerous, even if the original or intended motive is pure, as it is very easy to slide down the slippery slope and bask in the adulation and praise that may follow public acts of kindness. Churches or organizations that publicize the names of those who give should stop that practice. If their giving is from a pure heart, they won’t want their names revealed anyway. And if they do, maybe the church or organization should have a talk with them and refer to this passage. Although churches and organizations may wrestle with the idea of losing donors, possible large donors, by adopting this policy, it is the course prescribed by Scripture.

Let’s consider three reasons people give.

  • People may give from a sense of duty. They may give not because they wish to give, but because they feel that giving is a duty which they cannot easily escape.
  • People may give from motives of prestige. They may give to take for themselves the glory of giving.
  • People may give simply because they have to. They may give simply because the overflowing love and kindliness in their hearts will not allow them to do anything else.

Only the last reason is from a pure heart. Don’t get confused by the phrase “because they have to.” This compulsion comes from their heartfelt concern for others and not any selfish reason.

Another point that is not stated explicitly here but is implicit as it flows from the character of Jesus is the concept of sacrificial giving.

2 Cor 8:9-11  For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: Though He was rich,  for your sake He became poor,  so that by His poverty you might become rich. 10 Now I am giving an opinion on this because it is profitable for you, who a year ago began not only to do something but also to desire it. 11 But now finish the task  as well, that just as there was eagerness to desire it, so there may also be a completion from what you have.

In Judaism, there were three great works of religious life:

  • Almsgiving
  • Prayer
  • Fasting

Jesus will address all three of these topics in Matthew 6:1-18.

Let’s look at verses 2-4 as one bundle.

The word “when” implies that giving is expected; it’s not an optional act but a lifestyle. At the same time, Jesus was saying they shouldn’t act like the many in the temple and on the streets acted. The outward appearance looked like they were concerned for the needy, but they were actually looking for praise for they were doing. Jesus is condemning them for being motivated by the wrong reasons, seeking personal glory for their actions instead of giving glory to God.

In verse 3, Jesus says, “but when,” indicating a contrast between how His followers were to act and the false piousness of the hypocrites. Since God sees all that we do, even our publicly hidden acts of kindness will be noticed, who will reward us.

The reward that Jesus promises here follows the central theme of the Sermon on the Mount – the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven. The rewards will lead to spiritual growth in this life and final perfection when we are resurrected.

While Jesus is encouraging generous giving, He is not advocating being irresponsible with an individual’s money. Stewardship of our financial situation is still expected.

Applications

  • First, if you don’t give, why is that? Giving falls into several areas.
    • Our offering to our church. If you belong to a local body of Christ, you should give an offering. Tithing is an Old Testament concept, but offerings are still
      • 2 Corinthians 8:12    For if the eagerness is there, it is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.
      • 2 Corinthians 9:11  You will be enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us. Note: This is not speaking of a prosperity Gospel.
      • Hebrews 13:16  Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.
    • Offering to charitable organizations. There are many that support orphans, widows, and medical needs, to name a few. Find one or more that tug on your heart to support.
    • Helping those in need we might meet in our daily lives. Examine each of these areas. This can be challenging as we never know when someone may be playing a game and aren’t really in need. Let the Holy Spirit lead you in those cases.
  • If you already give check, your motive for giving. I’ll re-list what I wrote above.
    • People may give from a sense of duty. They may give not because they wish to give, but because they feel that giving is a duty which they cannot easily escape.
    • People may give from motives of prestige. They may give to take for themselves the glory of giving.
    • People may give simply because they have to. They may give simply because the overflowing love and kindliness in their hearts will not allow them to do anything else.
    • If you are doing it for any reason other than the third one, ask for forgiveness and give from a pure heart and with pure motives.
  • If you see a brother or sister not giving or giving for the wrong reason, challenge them. This is never easy and may result in a strained or broken relationship. However, we are called to walk alongside our spiritual brothers and sisters and help them grow. Knowingly ignoring a situation where they are acting contrary to Scripture is also sin on our part.