by Mike Ratliff
17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter or one stroke may pass from the law until everything is fulfilled. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and thus teaches men, he will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever practices and teaches them, this one will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you that unless your righteousness exceeds beyond that of the scribes and Pharisees, you may never enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17:20 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
We now enter the next section of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6 where Jesus expands upon Matthew 5:17-20 showing how the Pharisees’ righteousness was deficient, as is all who are self-righteous, by exposing their hypocrisy in the matter of giving to the poor (vv1-4); prayer (vv5-15); and fasting (vv16-18). God’s people are to do these things as acts of worship rendered to God, but the self-righteous use them as displays to gain the admiration of others. In this post we will look Matthew 6:1-4.
1 “But be careful of demonstrating your righteousness before men with the aim to be seen by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven.” 2 “Therefore, whenever you do give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may be glorified by men. Amen I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand does, 4 so that your alms may be in secret and your Father, the one seeing in secret, will repay you. ” (Matthew 6:1-4 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
I have had a few people come to me over the years in deep concern that they were guilty of practicing their righteousness before men with the aim to be seen by them. I counseled them that if it concerned them they were probably not. I served for many years as a Bible teacher and deacon in multiple local churches and have been very close to the pastors and staff in those churches because of doing networking and computer work for them such as network cabling. What I’m trying to say is that I spent time in the office area in those churches during the day during the week when most people were not there. It is very different than it is on Sundays. You can have your illusions of what those men are really like shattered when you are around them for long periods of time when they are “not on.” On the other hand, there were also some who were extremely genuine. They were always the same. Their Christian witness did not take a day off in other words.
Those “genuine” leaders were those who cared for the sheep God had entrusted to them more than the church budget. It was these men you went to if you needed prayer or wise counsel because they did not practice their righteousness before men to be seen by them. No, they simply served God for his glory and obeyed him where he had them.
On the other hand, I have “served” with some others who more than likely were elected to be a deacon because they were willing rather than because they were spiritually qualified. It was with these men I was in constant conflict about something. Across the board, these were the self-righteous, legalistic, pietistic, fellows who would have bumper stickers on their cars that said something like, “Follow me to “????? Church” Fill in the blank with your church name. Or, they would have a bumper sticker or lapel pin that would say something like, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it!” Okay, I agree that that is true, but when asked doctrinal questions these same fellows knew nothing at all. To them the Bible was an idol in their piety. They also thought my Greek studies were a total waste of time since, after all, they had their King James Bible so what else could anyone ever need (sarcasm intended).
I can remember as a Junior High student in Purcell, Oklahoma hearing a sermon at The First Baptist Church there in the early 1960’s on Justification and Sanctification from Romans 8. How prevalent is that in our time? Why? It is because our churches and their leaders are made up of those who are practicing their righteousness before men to be noticed by them. The fall into this apostasy has been far and swift.
In vv2-4 our Lord makes it clear that we are to give to the poor liberally, but not as a show. Instead, it should be something that is between God and us. I get very nervous when Christians talk about their giving as if this is evidence of their faith. Run from those who do that.
Soli Deo Gloria!