Pastor David B. Curtis


The Worship of Giving

Matthew 6:1-4

Delivered 12/01/2002

Each week I begin by asking you what the subject is that we will be studying that morning. Well, answering that question this week may not be all that easy. If you answered, "Worship", you would be correct. If you answered, "Hypocrisy", you would be correct. And if you answered, "Giving", you would be correct. In verses 1-18 The Lord deals with the subject of true worship verses hypocrisy, and his first illustration is that of giving.

D. A. Carson, in his book The Sermon On The Mount, opens chapter six with this paragraph, "We human beings are a strange lot. We hear high moral injunctions and glimpse just a little the genuine beauty of perfect holiness, and then prostitute the vision by dreaming about the way others would hold us in high esteem if we were like that. The demand for genuine perfection loses itself in the lesser goal of external piety; the goal of pleasing the Father is traded for its pygmy cousin, the goal of pleasing man. It almost seems as if the greater the demand for holiness, the greater the opportunity for hypocrisy."

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught His disciples that their righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20). They can only attain that righteousness as a gift from God. As we place our trust in Christ, he takes our sin and gives us His righteousness:

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Once we are saved and have the righteousness of Christ positionally, we are to practically live it out. We are to live righteously, and Christ teaches us how in this sermon. Jesus first contrasted the "righteousness of the kingdom" with what the scribes and Pharisees were teaching. Now, beginning with chapter 6, he contrasted what He expected of His disciples with what the scribes and Pharisees were practicing

In Matthew 6, Jesus focuses attention on a very basic matter - worship. In this section he contrasts true worship with hypocrisy.

What is worship? Worship is honor and adoration directed to God. The New Testament uses several words for worship. Two of them are particularly noteworthy: proskuneo, which means: "to kiss toward, to bow down." It signifies humble adoration. Another word used for worship is latreuo, which means: "rendering honor or paying homage". Both terms carry the idea of giving, because worship is giving something to God. It begins with the giving of ourselves, and then of our attitudes, and then our possessions.

True worship is intensely personal, but it does not have to be private. A group of believers may gather at a building for public worship, but not everyone who enters the building worships. Today people have degenerated to the same point the Jews had - they tend to identify worship with a certain location and begin to sanctify the location. Then they think that as long as they go to that location at a certain time and go through certain motions and activities, they can leave assured that they have worshiped. That is the trap the Jews were in. That is the background for what is happening in Matthew 6 as Jesus is wanting to correct any misunderstandings regarding acceptable worship of God.

Beginning with chapter 6 Jesus contrasts what He expected of His disciples with what the scribes and Pharisees were practicing:

Matthew 6:1 (NKJV) "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

Some manuscripts, upon which the KJV and NKJV are based, have the Greek word eleemosunen, translated: "alms", or "charitable deeds" -.which would make this verse refer specifically to alms-giving or charitable deeds. Older manuscripts, upon which the ASV and NASV are based, have the Greek word dikaiosunen, translated: "righteousness" - which would make verse one speaking in general terms, establishing the principle to be applied to ALL acts of righteousness. Textual support seems strongest for dikaiosunen, making verse one an introductory statement concerning all righteous acts:

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.

This is a general statement about practicing righteousness. In the following verses Jesus is going to develop that concept in three areas which were crucial to the Jews in their plan of worship. The first area of practicing righteousness, to which He will speak, is the matter of alms - giving and performing acts of mercy, a subject Jesus discusses in verses 2 through 4. The next subject He will cover is the subject of prayer, addressed in verses 5 through 15. Then in verses 16 through 18 the subject of fasting will be considered. The matter of practicing righteousness in this passage refers primarily to worship in the matter of giving, prayers, and fasting.

Jesus begins this section with a word of warning:

Matthew 6:1 (NKJV) "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

Some have misinterpreted this verse, saying, "Beware that you don't do any of your righteous acts before men, so go do them in a corner." But God never designed us to be monks. What good are Christians when they withdraw from society? The Bible teaches that we are to do our righteous acts before men. Jesus instructed believers:

Matthew 5:16 (NKJV) "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

This passage is not in conflict with Matthew 6:1. The warning of Matthew 6:1 is not intended to keep you from practicing your righteousness before men. In fact, you are commanded in Matthew 5:16 to do that. But the warning of Matthew 6:1 is that you are not to be practicing your righteousness before men "to be seen by them". "To be seen by them" has a construction in the Greek concerning purpose or design. You are not to do your righteous acts for the purpose of being seen by men so you will look good.

The crucial matter is the motivation for practicing your righteousness. That, in fact, is the subject of the entire section: Why are you doing this righteous deed before men? If your motivation is for them to see your work and honor you, you will have no reward from God. But if you are doing the righteous deed before men because you want them to see the character of God and glorify Him, then you will be rewarded by God. The phrase "to be seen by them" becomes the issue in each of these areas.

Many people do righteous deeds, but some do them with the wrong motives. Some do it to hear others say of them, "My, he is a godly person," or "My, she is the most spiritual lady I have ever known." That was the motivation of the hypocrites Jesus was referring to in Matthew 6 - to be noticed by men.

The principle established in this section is that the one you do it for is the one who will reward you. If you do your good works for men to see so they will honor you, your reward is the reward they give you. Therefore, do not expect any further rewards from God. You did not do it for God; you did it for men. The sentence, "Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward." is repeated in verses 2, 5, and 16. If the work is done for God, your reward will come from Him. The phrase, "...and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you" is repeated in verses 4, 6, and 18. The contrast is the reward. If you are doing your work for men, your reward will be from men. If you are doing it for God, your reward will be from God. But if you do your work for men, do not expect God to reward you.

Please keep in mind that the Sermon on the Mount is addressed to Christians - God was their Father - "...Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven."

The first matter Jesus addresses is that of giving:

Matthew 6:2 (NKJV) "Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.

The word "alms" is from the Greek word eleemosune, which refers to charitable acts. The word means: "acts of charity or mercy" and encompasses many kinds of deeds. In this context it refers to giving.

We must understand that our GIVING IS WORSHIP:

Philippians 4:18 (NKJV) Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.

Paul tells them that their gift was overwhelming to him. He was full. Paul viewed their gift as an offering to God, a sacrifice that was well pleasing. Notice the words Paul uses here -"sweet-smelling" is from the Greek word euodia, and "aroma" is from the word osme, and "sacrifice" is from the Greek word thusia. All three of these words are used in Ephesians 5 of Christ's sacrificial offering of Himself to God in man's behalf.

Ephesians 5:2 (NKJV) And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice (thusia) to God for a sweet-smelling (euodia) aroma (osme).

"Christ also has loved us and given..." -because Christ loved, he gave. I don't think that you can disassociate loving and giving. These words express the language of worship -- GIVING IS AN EXPRESSION OF WORSHIP!

Our love for God and our worship of Him may be proved by something that is a major part of everyone's life, and that is our use of money.

Luke 16:11 (NKJV) "Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?

If we can't handle money, God will never give us spiritual responsibility. How we handle money is a barometer of our spiritual life. How we use our money demonstrates the reality of our love for God. We can pretend to be worshipers, but the use of our possessions shows us up for what we actually are.

The apostle John linked money and the love of God:

1 John 3:16-17 (NKJV) By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?

Again, we see here the connection between loving and giving (verse 16). Most Christians will never have the opportunity to lay down their lives; how then can they show that they love their brothers and their God? By giving of their money and material goods. If we fail to do this, we show we don't love our brother or our God. We all show by our giving the measure of our love for God.

There are two directions in terms of Christian giving that I see in the Scripture:

1. We are to give to help support the needy:

1 Corinthians 16:1 (NKJV) Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:

When a needy person crosses your path, you are to help him when you can. This can be done individually; as you see someone with a need, you meet it, but the examples in scripture are that they gave it to the elders of the church to distribute to the needy.

2. We are to give to support those who teach the Bible:

1 Corinthians 9:6-7 (NKJV) Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working? 7 Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?

Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Do you sailors have to pay for your cruises? Do you have to support yourself while you're out at sea? No, the Navy gives you a paycheck. Soldiers do not fight during the day and then work a civilian job at night in order to support themselves.

Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? The farmer does not have a side job in order to support himself. He makes his living off the farm.

Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock? The shepherd gets the benefit of the flock he shepherds. In any labor, the person who does the work has a right to live off of the work.

The right of a Bible teacher to be supported by the church is not only taught by custom, but it is an Old Testament precept. In verses 8-10, he appeals to the Old Testament law.

1 Corinthians 9:8-9 (NKJV) Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? 9 For it is written in the law of Moses, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain." Is it oxen God is concerned about?

Paul's argument was not merely a human judgement, because God's law taught the same thing. In biblical times, an ox was used to help thresh the grain. The Israelite farmer spread his grain on an outdoor threshing floor, which was hard, smooth, and level. A flat board weighed down with stones or people was drawn over the grain by a team of oxen or horses that walked in circles around a post. The ox was permitted to eat as much grain as it desired while it was doing the heavy pulling. If a Jew muzzled the ox, he ran the risk of a scourging in the local synagogue.

The quotation about muzzling the ox comes from Deuteronomy 25:4. The context indicates that this text does not refer to animals, but to men and their service for God. The theme of Deuteronomy 25 is human compassion, decency, and fairness. Not muzzling an ox, therefore, was probably a proverbial expression concerning just remuneration. Paul quoted this same verse when he wrote to Timothy and encouraged the church to pay their ministers adequately in:

1 Timothy 5:17-18 (NKJV) Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. 18 For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain," and, "The laborer is worthy of his wages."

It is a church's responsibility to see that their minister is adequately paid for his work.

Paul continued his appeal to Old Testament law in:

1 Corinthians 9:10 (NKJV) Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope.

The word "altogether" is the Greek word pantos, it should be translated: "assuredly." He did not mean that the command has exclusive reference to man, but he did say that the command was assuredly given for our sakes. Paul took a figurative expression from the Old Testament and applied it to the principle of paying a pastor for his work. As the ox works, he is to have the freedom to eat some of the corn that he is treading. In the same way, "he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope." As the worker and the ox work in hope, so should the Christian worker. He should work in the hope that he will be supported in his work. This principle is supported by custom and has the sanction of Scripture.

In verse 11, Paul appealed to basic community justice:

1 Corinthians 9:11 (NKJV) If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?

"If" is a first class condition in the Greek and could be translated: "since". "Since I have taught you about the Lord, since I have taught you about spiritual things, since I have encouraged you in the word of God, shouldn't you provide material things for me?" Those who teach the Word of God have the right to expect support from those they teach. Paul taught this principle to the Galatians:

Galatians 6:6 (NKJV) "Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.

This is a basic principle of the Christian life: If we receive spiritual blessings, we should in turn share material blessings. If you are being taught the scripture, you have an obligation, a duty, to give to support those teaching you.

Beyond these two things, the Bible doesn't say anything else about giving. They are the only perspectives the Scripture gives us. We are to give to the church to support the needy and provide for the teachers.

A significant part of the Jewish worship system related to giving money to help the poor and needy. This practice had degenerated to the point that the hypocrites would give in this way to draw attention to what they were doing. When they gave their charitable gifts for the needy, they wanted to draw all the attention they could to the fact that they were doing this so that people would think of them as being godly, spiritual people. They were doing it so the people would notice them and honor them for it. Jesus calls them, "Hypocrites". The Greek word which is translated hypocrite, originally referred to an actor, one who was playing a role, so it carried over to indicate one who was not genuine or sincere. Hypocrites are those who are playing roles, pretending to be something they are not. These Jews were pretending to be spiritual. They wanted people to think they were doing it for God, but they were really doing it for the praise of men. Verse 2 indicates that they did it "that they may have glory from men."

Matthew 5:16 says that we are to let our lights shine before men so that they will glorify the Father. The word translated glorify, in this verse, is the same word which is translated glory in Matthew 6:2. Believers are to do what they do in order that God might be glorified. The motivation of the hypocrites is the opposite of what it should be. The hypocrites are taking what God intended for His glory and are turning it around for their own glory. They are going through the motions and doing something with ulterior motives.

Who are the hypocrites in view here? Jesus does not specify in chapter 6 who they are, but the context of Matthew makes it clear that when Jesus speaks of hypocrites, He has in mind the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus referred to these hypocrites in:

Matthew 23:14 (NKJV) "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.

He gave them exactly the same warning in verses 15, 23, 25, 27, and 29. Is it any wonder that Jesus was not one of the favorite people of the scribes and Pharisees? Such an approach was not especially geared to win friends and influence people!

Jesus said the scribes and Pharisees were pretending to be godly men, but they were not godly men. They were doing all their good deeds in order to be respected and honored by men; they wanted the acclaim men gave to them because of their good deeds. All those who followed the scribes and Pharisees in their hypocrisy came under the condemnation of this warning.

These hypocrites did everything to be honored or glorified by men. Men have now given them that honor, so they cannot expect to receive any rewards from God. Matthew 6:2 says, "Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.." The word reward is translated from the Greek word misthos, which means: "wages as a just compensation for services received." It was used as an accounting term. It was stamped on documents when an account was paid completely. It indicates paid in full with nothing more coming. The account is closed, because the reward has been paid in full.

Jesus gives the positive side of the instruction in verses 3-4:

Matthew 6:3 (NKJV) "But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

Some people will never give to the church in the form of a check, because someone would know what they gave. That is a legalist interpretation that is against the teaching of this verse. To prove that, look with me at:

Acts 4:34-35 (NKJV) Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles' feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

Did that mean they wouldn't allow the apostles to know what they brought? No, their motive was not to be seen. Their motive was to give. They did not blow their horn so the world would know what they gave, but neither did they try to conceal it from the apostles. They laid their gifts down at the apostles' feet so the distribution could be made according to need.

The giving was a very well known fact, done before men, but not to be seen of men or receive the praise of men. Let's look at motives. There was a great blessing and the church prospered when many people took everything they owned, sold it, and laid the money at the feet of the apostles. The fact of these contributions was common knowledge, but the Lord looks at our motives.

The wrong motive of the heart was revealed in the sin of Ananias and Sapphira! They wanted everyone to believe that they had given their all, when in fact it was a lie. The fact that they sold their land and gave part of the money to the apostles was not their sin; they wanted everyone to think they had given their all when they only gave a part:

Acts 5:1-2 (NKJV) But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet.

The terrible lie was that they would have the apostles believe they had given their all to gain the praise of men.

Acts 5:8-9 (NKJV) And Peter answered her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?" She said, "Yes, for so much." 9 Then Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out."

She and Ananias had agreed they would sell their possession and say this is the full price, but they kept back part; i.e., they were seeking the praise of men for having given their all, when in fact, they did not.

Jesus did not say, "Do not do your charitable deeds before men," but He did say, "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them."

Matthew 6:4 (NKJV) "that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.

One of the reasons why people like others to know what they do is because they like immediate rewards. They like to be stroked now; they like the pat on the back. If you do something faithfully day in and day out and nobody notices you, you may begin to think that no one really cares. But why are you doing it? Are you doing it so people will notice it and honor you for it? Or are you doing it because it is pleasing to God and honoring to Him? If you are doing it to please God and honor Him, then you must wait to get your reward. If you are doing it to please people, you can get your reward today. Again, it is a matter of motivation.

Why do you give? If it is to be noticed by men, you had better give with all the fanfare you can so that many will notice it and reward you. After all, since that is all the reward you are going to get, you had better get all you can here. But if you are doing it for God, it does not matter if anybody knows you do it or not, because God sees the secret deed, and He is keeping the account. You will be repaid by Him. The point is, who are you attempting to please?

Jesus is not saying that you can never give in public. People are generally very sensitive about giving, so some people interpret these verses to mean that they should never give in public. If you interpret this to say that all giving has to be absolutely secret, then you have a problem, because the next section of verses refers to secret prayer, and you will also have to conclude that there is no place for anything but secret prayer. Then you have a real problem, because Jesus and the disciples prayed in public. Paul even recorded some of his prayers in letters he wrote.

The word reward is used to convey two meanings. In verse 2 it is taken from the Greek word misthos. It means: "wages as a just compensation for services received."

Matthew 6:2 (NKJV) "Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.

They have been rewarded; they have received their just compensation for what they have done.

Matthew 6:4 (NKJV) "that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.

The word reward here is from the Greek word apodidomi. In this case, the word reward conveys a totally different meaning from wages. Apodidomimeans: "a bonus because something was very pleasing, yet without any power to merit." If someone gets a reward for something that he did not deserve, it is a bonus. That is what is meant by this word. "...your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you." The word "openly" is not in the manuscripts. The contrast is not between "secretly" and "openly," but between the reward from men, and the reward from God. The NASB puts it this way, "...and your Father who sees in secret will repay you."

The reward God has for the Godly is not only for hereafter. Many people have the misconception that our only reward is in heaven. That is not true:

Psalms 41:1-3 (NKJV) Blessed is he who considers the poor; The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. 2 The LORD will preserve him and keep him alive, And he will be blessed on the earth; You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies. 3 The LORD will strengthen him on his bed of illness; You will sustain him on his sickbed.

The Lord will reward with His temporal as well as His spiritual blessings those who walk uprightly.

Each of us needs to spend more time examining our motives. We can be very deceptive. The Jews were completely deceived by the scribes and Pharisees. The Jews thought for sure that these were godly men, but they were totally deceived. It depends on how good an actor, how good a hypocrite, a person is.

The point of the instruction regarding giving in secret is that giving is an intensely personal matter between you and God. Your motivation must be to please God and honor Him in what you do. Whether or not others are aware is secondary. What matters is that you do it because you believe God wants you to, because it is a part of your being submissive to Him. It is a means of your honoring Him. The fact that it does not matter whether or not others see your giving is an indication that it is a matter between you and God. If others never find out, that will be all right because God sees in secret, and He will reward you for it.

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