Matthew 6:1 (ESV)
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.
· Ask yourself this question, “What kind of admonition is this?
o Is this a serious commandment from the lips of Jesus or is it just a casual caution?
o Let us look and see.
· Now, before we go further, do not plug your definition of New Testament righteousness (that is ‘being able to stand in the presence of God as if you have never sinned’) into these verses or you will miss what is going on here.
· This verse is not referring to positional righteousness but to functional ‘walk it out on planet earth’ righteousness.
· He is talking about spiritual disciplines that come from your position of righteousness.
o Or, saying it another way, ‘the areas of life that you are involved in because you are saved’
o Jesus gives us three ‘sample’ disciplines – (sample meaning there are more of these [Bible study for example] but these three are the ones that Jesus refers to – you cannot tell it all in one night!)
· And we will look at these later
o So with the understanding that we are talking personal and devotional disciplines, you can translate this verse like this and not do it any damage…
Matthew 6:1 (ESV)
1 “Beware of practicing your righteous actions before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
· Now, let us look at some word definitions that will help us clarify further what Jesus is saying here
· The first word we should look at is the word ‘beware’…
o ‘Beware’ means…
o DEFINITION: beware/προσέχω/prosechō – to be concerned about; pay attention to, heed, be careful of; occupy oneself with
o This word is not a casual word
o Look at the company the word ‘beware’ keeps in the New Testament.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces,
In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
2 Peter 3:17
Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
· So, when Jesus uses the word ‘beware’ here in Matthew 6:1, stand up and take notice of it.
o You really should ‘beware’ of how you display righteousness.
· The next word we should look at is ‘practicing’
o DEFINITION: practicing/ποιέω/poieō – do, make; act; to carry out an obligation of a moral or social nature, do, keep, carry out, practice, commit (BDAG); the New Jerusalem Bible and the Revised English Bible translate this word as ‘to parade’
· Putting this all together…
Matthew 6:1 (ESV)
1 “Beware be sure to pay attention to, be very careful, of practicing parading your righteous(ness) actions before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
· Jesus is talking about parading spiritual actions (giving, prayer, and fasting) in front of other people in order to appear that YOU are spiritual.
· In other words, do not show off your spirituality in such a way to cause people to be impressed with you.
· Jesus states this again this way in referring to the Pharisees.
Matthew 23:5 (ESV)
5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long,
· Jesus is referring to in Matthew 6:1 ‘manner’ and ‘motive’ of spiritual actions.
o It is what you do AND why do you do what you do.
o This means that the doing of spiritual disciplines can count for nothing if your motive is wrong.
§ Your prayer can be for nothing if you are doing it to be seen
§ Your giving is for nothing if you are doing to increase your reputation
§ Your fasting is for naught if you parade it in front of people so others will think you are spiritual.
§ Doesn’t this sound familiar?
1 Corinthians 13:1–3 (ESV)
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
· Doesn’t this passage in 1Corinthians 13 speak of motive?
· QUESTION: How is Matthew 6:1 a violation of the love commandment?
o Answer: doing things to be seen is having ‘you’ on your mind
o Walking in love is having the other person on your mind.
· The spiritual discipline that a believer engages in is only ‘righteous’ if the motive is ‘righteous’ also.
o If you maneuver the ‘doing of the discipline’ in such a way that it enhances YOUR reputation, or puts the focus on YOURSELF then your righteous action is no longer righteous.
· Jesus breaks these three ‘sample’ disciplines down for
Matthew 6:2–4 (ESV)
2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
· What is the motive here?
o That they may be praised by others
· Notice the word ‘secret’
Matthew 6:5–6 (ESV)
5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
o What is the motive in this passage
§ That they may be seen by others
o Notice the word ‘secret’ again
Matthew 6:16–18 (ESV)
16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
· What is the motive in this third case?
o That they may be seen by others
o Notice one more time the word ‘secret’
· Are you getting a clue here?
o Jesus repeated this three times
§ Letting us know that in order to curb this tendency we need to keep certain aspects of our spiritual life ‘secret’.
§ Now, you say this in this our society and all kinds of re-flags go up with certain groups because these groups say ‘the public has the right to know’.
· No, do they not!
§ Some portions of our lives should be ‘secret’.
§ Now, all we have to do to curb this tendency ‘to be seen’, is to understand what ‘secret’ really means.
· DEFINITION: secret/κρύπτω/kryptō – hide; bury; something hidden
o It is not a secret because it is ‘totally’ unknown; it is a secret because you know what you did for God and you intentionally chose to bury or hide it.
· This is how you live a portion of your Christian life – you live it in secret!
o You do not go out and broadcast everything that God does with you or everything that you do for Him!
· People ask spiritual leaders in the church ‘how much do you study?’ or ‘how much do you pray?’
o Are you asking them to dig up their secret?
o Spiritual disciplines are a secret between you and God.
§ For example, if I am not praying enough, that is between me and Him.
o There is an element of Christianity that is nobody’s business except yours and God.
o After all what do you suppose ‘secret’ means?
§ It means don’t tell it!!!
§ Don’t tell how much you pray.
§ Don’t tell how much you study.
§ Don’t tell how much you give.
§ Don’t tell it!!!
o There are parts that are exclusively between you and God!
§ Just like there are things between husbands and wives that should never be told.
§ These talk shows that expose and air out all that dirty laundry are heinous.
· So, let us rephrase this in a question form.
o ‘According to Jesus, ‘what does being spiritual look like?’
§ According to Jesus spiritual is a life lived in secret?
o All of which means the following:
§ You do not have to have your personal signature on everything God uses you for.
· Quit signing your name to the bottom of stuff
· You may say, ‘Yes but I am giving glory to God”
John 7:18 (KJV 1900)
18 He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.
o You do not have to tell everything that God uses you in.
§ There are some things you should not tell. Just keep it between you and the Lord.
§ Practice serving God without others knowing
§ Serve him behind the scenes – give in secret
And remember there is coming a day when…
Romans 2:16 (KJV 1900)
16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.