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Sunday, May 25, 2014

35 - Deed and Motivation [B]

Matthew 6:1-8 & Matthew 6:16-18 by Robert Dean
"Hey! Look at me! Blow on that trumpet! Tell everyone I just dropped a lot in the offering plate." Listen to this lesson to learn how Jesus told His disciples to give, not just the act but the motivation behind the act. Notice what He promises about rewards. Understand how praying should be offered in private, never to show off what great prayer warriors we are. Find out the meaning and value of fasting. Affirm that God looks at the heart of each of us and that it's not what we do but why we do it that counts.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:56 mins 32 secs

Deed and Motivation
Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18
Matthew Lesson #035
May 25, 2014

We are shifting the topic just a bit. We are still in the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus is still addressing His disciples.

There is a lot of debate in the commentaries and among different theologians that Jesus is not only addressing His disciples per se but there has been a mixed multitude, believers and unbelievers, who have come to gather around our Lord. And so what our Lord does is emphasize righteousness to this as imputed righteousness. You will find in some of your reading, perhaps, that this is an emphasis. I even found in a commentary that is generally very helpful that when this author was explaining Matthew 5:20, that states "unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven," he took that as imputed righteousness. But then he shifts back, when he summarized chapter five he did an excellent job of explaining that this was talking about righteous conduct, not absolute righteousness. So even in some of the commentaries that are out there, there seems to be a recognition at some level that some of these verses have to be taken in terms of how a person lives in terms of experiential righteousness, and not in terms of the imputed righteousness that we receive at salvation.

Experiential righteousness is the righteousness that we exhibit in life as we walk in obedience to the Lord. This was what Jesus summarized in the last verse of chapter five, where He said: "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect". He is not saying that we should be absolutely, spiritually perfect or flawless with absolutely no unrighteousness. That is not how the word TELEIOS used. It really has the significance everywhere else in Scripture of being complete or mature, not in the sense of being sinlessly flawless. In fact, TELEIOS is used in the Old Testament to translate one particular word that is used in Genesis 6:9. It translates the Hebrew word tam, which means blameless basically. It is translated that way in reference to Noah. Noah was not perfect, but Noah walked in obedience to God. NASB "These are {the records of} the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God." That is what blameless meant in the Old Testament. It wasn't that there wasn't sin or failure on the part of the believer but that his basic heart's desire was to walk and serve God. Most of the time he walked in obedience and when there was sin he confessed that sin and was restored to fellowship, and then he moved forward.

Other passages reiterate this: Genesis 17:1—"walk before me and be blameless". He wasn't calling upon Abraham to do something that was impossible. God is giving him a standard that he can live up to.

Deuteronomy 18:13 NASB "You shall be blameless before the LORD your God". 

Psalm 18:23 NASB "I was also blameless with Him, And I kept myself from my iniquity". David certainly was not a sinless, flawless believer. He committed numerous sins. The point is that we can live a blameless life in this sense as we walk by the Holy Spirit. When we walk according to the flesh we need to confess that sin and be restored in our fellowship with God and to continue to abide in Christ and enjoy that fellowship, which is an active concept in the Scripture, walking with Him.

Jesus is going to shift gears here in Matthew 6:1. What has been going on in the previous section was six examples taken from specific commandments taken from the Torah that were being distorted and misapplied by the Pharisees. They were minimizing the Law so that in one sense it was a little easier to conform to the Law because in only dealt with superficial, external obedience rather than an internal attitude that was free from the underlying mental attitude sins. What Jesus does is to provide a corrective. For example, He says it is not just the external act of murder that is wrong; it is the underlying mental attitude sins of anger that also make you a murderer. It is not just the physical act that violates the Law; it is also the internal mental attitude sin that produces the overt sin.    

Now He is going to shift from correcting their interpretation of specific laws, to correcting their application in worship. There are three areas of worship that are mentioned in the sixth chapter. The first has to do with giving, the second has to do with prayer, and the third has to do with fasting. Jesus is saying that it is not just the act; it is the mental attitude and the motivation behind the act. In other words, a right thing done for the wrong reason is wrong. If you are doping these acts of worship in order to gain the approval and recognition of other human beings, then that is the only reward you are going to get. People may recognize you, they may praise you, but that has no spiritual value or eternal significance. If that is your motivation then, yes, you are going to have your reward but it is not worth anything. But if you do it in secret; if your motivation is to honor and glorify God, then it is your Father who will recognize that and will reward you or return payment in kind.

The first verse makes the shift from talking about commandments to talking about works.

Matthew 6:1 NASB "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven."

Notice that in these passages the concept of reward—which means a wage or reward earned—is used six times in the Sermon on the Mount. Reward is the concept related to believers, not something related to unbelievers. Remember that salvation is a free gift but a reward is something that is earned, something that is given for exceptional conduct and behavior. A reward is something that is given to an athlete because he has won the games. A reward is something that is given to a servant who has performed well. But salvation is given as a free gift. So we are not talking about what you must do to be saved here, we are talking about how a saved person should live and look forward to rewards in heaven.

Another thing that we should understand here is the dispensational distinctive. Jesus is talking to the disciples during the age of Israel. The age of Israel began in the Old Testament in Genesis chapter twelve when God called out Abraham. The age of Israel paused at the cross. The last seven years of the age of Israel take place during the time of the Tribulation. But at this time during Jesus' ministry on the earth Jesus is addressing His disciples during the age of Israel, so when you read reward here don't be thinking that Jesus is talking about rewards at the judgment seat of Christ. The judgment seat of Christ is for church age believers. That is our evaluation in heaven after the Rapture.

There is an application we can make there. At the time that Jesus is talking to believers in the Old Testament dispensation and we know from passages like Daniel chapter twelve that there will be an evaluation of Old Testament saints and there will be rewards given to them as well. So there is a parallel. I believe that it is just as true for us as church age believers as it is for Old Testament saints that God will reward us at the judgment seat of Christ. And again, this is not going to be based on simply overt or external actions but it is based as well on our internal attitude, our motivation, as we walk by means of the Spirit. It is only when we are walking according to the Spirit and doing the right thing the right way from the right motivation that it will result in God giving us rewards.

As we look at this chapter the first four verses deal with almsgiving or charity. Verses 5-8 talk about prayer. And then Jesus is going to give an example or a model prayer. The third thing He addresses in vv. 16-18 is the issue of fasting. We must understand that what Jesus is doing is taking these three primary components that were emphasized in rabbinical theology as the key elements of worship—the giving of alms, prayer and fasting. What Jesus is saying is that it is not the overt action that has value but that what is important is that internal motivation. If you are doing it for recognition, for approval from other people it is not going to have any spiritual significance, it is not going to bring you any reward other than what you have from other human beings. What matters is that you do it as a matter of your own privacy and you are doing it as you serve the Lord. The Lord sees; the Lord recognizes; and it is the Lord who will reward. That is the thrust of what He is saying.

There are a few things that we should look at in terms of understanding the text per se. 

Matthew 6:1 NASB "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven."

The verse begins with a warning, the verb PROSECHO, an imperative and a second person plural. He is addressing the group and says, "Be warned, pay attention, look at this issue. The verse is a summary; the specifics are given in verse 2. The KJV and the NKJV translate this as "your charitable deeds".  The verb here is the infinitive form of POIEO, which means to do. He is talking about application. Doing is not just Christian service. Doing as James identifies it is the application of what we have learned.  So Jesus is saying here: "Take heed to your application in terms of righteousness. The word "charitable deeds", which in v. 2 is ELEEMMOSUNE, the Greek word based on the root for mercy or compassion, is not the word that means charitable deeds. It is not the word translated "charitable deeds" in Matthew 6:1 where we have the word DIKAIOSUNE.

In rabbinical theology the issue of application in order to gain the approbation of God that merits heaven is to perform the commandments of the Law so that you can accumulate enough righteous deeds in order to be acceptable into heaven. It is a works based righteousness. What Jesus is saying here plays on that understanding and that terminology. He says, "Take heed that you do not do your righteous deeds …" That is how it should be translated. "… to be noticed by them". It shouldn't be the focal point that you are doing this for public recognition or just recognition among your peers.

He says, "Otherwise…" This literally in the Greek to be translated something like, "if so then, if this is the case… then you have no reward." It is a present tense that can be expanded out into eternity that you have no reward to day, nor will you ever be rewarded for that by your Father in heaven. In another note here, when He says, "Your Father in heaven", he is clearly talking to believers because only believers can address God the Father as their Father. Jesus identifies the Pharisees in John chapter 10 by saying: "You are of your father, the devil". We only enter into God's family by virtue of our faith in Christ. Cf. John 1:12. Jesus is not addressing issues on how to be righteous; He is addressing believers on how they should live in a righteous way after salvation.

Matthew 6:2 NASB "So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full."

"… as the hypocrites do" was a phrase that was probably an idiomatic phrase. There is nothing that is indicated anywhere specifically of a particular ceremony where a trumpet was blown in a personal sense. There is some mixed information that relates to this. There is some evidence that in the temple there would be certain collections that would be given for a special need. If that is what the Lord had in mind those then at those ceremonies there was a trumpet that was blown. But we don't know of anything comparable that takes place in the synagogues. He is probably using this in a metaphorical sense: Don't make a big show out of what you are doing.

This is what they were doing, and Jesus calls them hypocrites. Thirteen times in Matthew Jesus refers to the opposing group as hypocrites. The word HUPOCRITES is a word that in Greek originally meant an actor, someone who took on a role. Eventually that came to be used in Scripture in a slightly different sense. In the LXX the HUPOCRITES was used for the godless. In the New Testament it is primarily used for someone who is acting out a role, that there is an external act or behavior that is put on but it doesn't reflect who the person is in terms of their true attitude or inner mentality.

This whole act of giving was something that was recognized by Christ and was positively commanded by the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 15:11 NASB "For the poor will never cease {to be} in the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land'." So ultimately the provision for those in need came from the individual volition of the Israelites. Even though they had a priestly bureaucracy that collected a tithe for the widows and orphans there were also additional offerings that were made from individuals to take care of and sustain those who were impoverished. It was not the function of government to take care of you. When the government gets involved it becomes inefficient and destructive to the system. God recognizes that this needs to be something motivated by the people and not manipulated and enforced by government. There is no pattern in Scripture where you see government coming to the financial aid of the poor and the widows.

Often we hear of people who are involved in some form of liberation theology—which is a euphemism; it is really Marxist-socialist theology imposed upon the Bible—and they go back to the Old Testament where the prophets condemned the people because they were not giving; they were not taking care of the people. They were not condemning the government. It wasn't the government's responsibility under the Law. The condemnation was that the people had turned their backs on taking care of their own. All the way through Scripture it was the responsibility of individuals. When the government starts to take care of the people the people lose their freedom and the people become enslaved and dependent upon the government. That destroys personal initiative, personal responsibility, and it leads to the internal collapse of a nation. When we talk about the fact that it is not the government's responsibility we have to recognize that it is our responsibility. Too often, because of the load of taxes put on the people, it limits ability to be able to give charitably to different groups and different organizations because the government has already emptied their pockets of disposable income.                          

Matthew 6:3 NASB "But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing …"

This is an idiom here. Obviously your left hand doesn't talk to your right hand but most people were right handed. With your right hand you would give the offering; your left hand was not involved with what the right hand was doing. So this was an idiom basically emphasizing the fact that there should be a sort of spontaneity as well in your giving. You should provide that opportunity for spontaneous giving so that it is not necessarily even planned. There is a role and a place for planned giving, but there should also be a miscellaneous amount in your budget when other needs come up and you hear about them and you have the money and resources in order to supply that.

Matthew 6:4 NASB "so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees {what is done} in secret will reward you."

The word for secret is the Greek word KRUPTOS. It comes into English as crypt, and we normally think of a crypt as a grave because in cathedrals they always had a secret place under what they called the altar in the front of the cathedral, and that was called the crypt. Over a period of time they would begin to bury people down in that secret space under the cathedral, and so the word came to change its meaning from a secret place to a grave. But its original meaning was something that was done in secret. When we talk about writing in codes that is called cryptography; it is writing in secret. So the idea is of something that is done in contrast to being in public. The word here for reward isn't MISTHOS, it is the verb APODIDOMI which means to give back, return back, or to pay back. Now this may not be paid back in this life; it may be paid back, restored, rewarded in the future in heaven for all of eternity.     

Jesus says much the same thing when He talks about prayer.

Matthew 6:5 NASB "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full."

They just want to do this is a way that gains public attention. Jesus concludes, "They get their public attention". But that's it.

Matthew 6:6 NASB "But you [disciples], when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees {what is done} in secret will reward you."

"Your Father". They are clearly seen as believers. The Old KJV used the term "closet" but the Greek word TAMEION means an inner room. It is some place inside your house that is private—not for display, not for everyone to see what you are doing. You pray in private.

Matthew 6:7 NASB "And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words."

In other words, the pattern is not like the heathen or the pagans but it should be distinct. The word here translated "meaningless repetition" is the Greek word BATTALOGEO. It is an onomatopoeic word. It sounds like what it is talking about, something that sounded like the same thing over and over with no meaning. This isn't really talking about the fact that many of us when we pray we get into various rhythms, we often start our prayers the same way, we use similar phrases, etc. We should pay attention to that and not just sort of get into a rut in terms of how we talk to God. God is an individual person and we shouldn't just talk to Him in the same sort of clichés all the time, which often happens. But this is really talking about the fact that among the heathen one or two things could be included in this. One is that in mystery religions they would speak in tongues. Not the biblical gift of tongues but they would speak in ecstatic utterances, which was just meaningless gibberish. That would certainly be included in the term BATTALOGEO. This is a verse that really goes against the whole charismatic emphasis on having a private prayer language. This would also include the idea that they would just go in and repeat the same prayer over and over again, meaningless thinking that just going through the action would have some sort of impact.       

Matthew 6:8 NASB "So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him."

In one sense you don't need to just go through this repetitive droning to somehow get God's attention. Later we will see that Jesus does use a parable where He emphasizes that it is fine to continue to importune God, to pray for the same things over and over again; it is not just once and done. There is a balance between this. He is talking here about how the heathen do it, which is just saying the same old rote thing over and over again thinking that somehow because I am sacrificing and giving up so much, I am just saying this one thing over and over again, that somehow God is going to take pity on me and finally answer my prayer. That is the heathen motivation.

We will skip the example of what is known as "the Lord's prayer", which is a misnomer. It is really the disciples' prayer. It is really just a pattern of prayer that is very much nuanced for this time and this dispensation because as Jesus and His disciples are challenging the people of Israel, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near". In this prayer they are praying, "Thy kingdom come." This is a prayer that fits within the historical context and it not meant to be repeated verbatim, word-for-word in a subsequent time period. We will come back and look at that in detail next time.

The third example had to do with fasting. 

Matthew 6:16 NASB "Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites {do,} for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full."

Apparently they wouldn't wash, they wouldn't comb their hair, they wouldn't shower; they would let their faces get dirty, so that when somebody looked at them they would say, "Oh, they must be fasting". Jesus again says that they have their reward. But that is all the recognition they are going to get. In contrast, when He addresses the disciples:

Matthew 6:17 NASB "But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face … "

Jesus is recognizing that they will fast. Fasting is never commanded in the Scripture, but it is recognized as something people did. Why did they do it? In an agricultural, pre-industrial revolution culture eating took a lot of time. You had to go out and kill whatever it was you had to eat, prepare it, etc. It was a time-consuming process. So by fasting they were showing how committed they were to a course of prayer action. They were going to set aside their daily needs in order to go to God in prayer. Fasting wasn't an end in itself.

Fasting wasn't designed to manipulate God, or to show God: 'Look how I am beating up on myself, you ought to be impressed; you ought to take me out of my misery here and answer my prayer'. That is how the heathen would do it. But there was a legitimate fasting, and it was the fact that you were just going to set aside the time-consuming distractions of life to focus on a spiritual necessity in terms of prayer.

In contrast, Jesus says: "Anoint your head". This is the word ALEIPHO, not the word CHRIO, which is the word from which we get our noun CHRISTOS, the anointed one. This word ALEIPHO is an every-day use of the word, the word which you would use when you get up and wash your face in the morning, wash your hair, take a shower, etc. So Jesus is saying to do this so that people aren't going to look at you as though you're fasting. They are not going to be able to tell at all.

That is important because later on in James chapter five James uses this word when he says: "If any of you are sick [spiritually weak] let him go to the elders and they will anoint his head with oil." That is not CHRIO, which would be a ceremonial ritual anointing; it is ALEIPHO. James is addressing a person who is spiritually depressed because he has been going through one spiritual battle and failure after another because he just isn't persevering in his testing and has really come to the end of his rope. He finally goes to the leaders in the church and says someone will have to pray for me. They first thing they say is he is going to have to go take a shower, get cleaned up, and then he can start facing life again. It's good practical advice there. It is not talking about physical healing.

Matthew 6:18 NASB "so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees {what is done} in secret will reward you."

The point that Jesus is making here is that God looks at the heart. It is not just what we do, it is what we do and why we do it, and the way we do it. We need as church age believers to be walking by the Spirit, to be obedient to the Scripture because of our desire to serve the Lord and to glorify Him, looking to Him for any recognition and reward; not to other people.