Serve in Secret to Receive Reward from God
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Matthew 6.1-18
Matthew 6. The president of the United States is considered to be the most powerful person on earth. He is also the most targeted. Behind the scenes, it takes thousands of man hours to protect him.
The White House is probably the most protected fortress in America, if not the earth. “Without the Secret Service, the President would probably not last outside the White House one day,” says a former Secret Service agent. 1,300 agents, snipers, and uniformed men and women are dedicated to protect the White House’s 18 acre complex.
During Barack Obama’s final days in office, in 2016, there was a shooting at the White House. A man with a firearm approached the White House security checkpoint at 17th and E street. Secret Service agents shot him in the stomach and transported him to George Washington University Hospital.
And most of you probably didn’t hear about it. In fact, other than guard the President and wear sunglasses with ear pieces in their ears, not many people know what the Secret Service does … and that’s exactly how they like it.
These men and women work behind the scenes on purpose, not to be noticed by men, to serve the country’s top leaders … and, of course, much more. No glory, no fame, just hard work and service, service in secret.
That’s the calling of each Christian: Serve the universe’s most powerful person in secret. We’ll read verses 1-6 and verses 16-18,…
Matthew 6:1–6, 16-18 1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 2 “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. 3 “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 5 “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. 6 “But you, 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. [Skip to verse 16] … 16 “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. 17 “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 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.
Here, Jesus teaches that hypocrisy refers to people who use religion to get honour from people. And Jesus gives 3 examples of how people look like they honour God on the outside, but on the inside, they really want to get honour from people. That’s the hypocrisy that Jesus condemned: showboating your religiosity. The 3 examples Jesus uses are: giving, praying, and fasting. You can give to the poor to show off how generous you are, you can pray to show off how godly you are, and you can fast to show others how spiritual you are.
Now this morning, we have the second instalment from this passage that deals with “Rewardable Service” and today we’ve come to the solution, the correction. The correction in each of those 3 instances is the same: Serve in secret!
Inductive study: Last time, I invited you to underline portions of this passage. We underlined in verse 1, “to be noticed by them” and “hypocrites,” verse 2 we marked “so that they may be honored by men.” Similarly, verse 5, “hypocrites” and “so that they may be seen by men” and verse 16, “hypocrites” and “so that they will be noticed by men.”
Just by pointing that out, we can see that the hypocrisy that Jesus addresses is the kind wants to be noticed by men, to be seen by men, and to be honored by men. Using religion to glorify self.
And so the hypocrisy that Jesus addresses is not the man, woman, the child who struggles with sin. Jesus is not talking about the person who, in his heart of hearts, really does want to only honor God, but he struggles with sin finding himself doing evil. Jesus is not talking about that kind of person. Jesus is talking about the kind of person who does religious deeds in order to be noticed by others and be praised by others.
NEW STUDY: Now, let’s do some further study. We’re going to note the words that talk about “reward” and “correction.”
The theme of reward begins in verse one when Jesus says that if you practice your righteousness before men in order to be noticed by them, you will not have a reward with your Father who is in heaven. And you could circle the word reward.
And those who do practice righteousness before men to be noticed by them verse two at the end, “they have their reward in full.” You could circle that one, too.
But if you take the correction verse four and your giving is in “secret”… Then your Father will reward you. So you could swiggly underline the correction in verses 4, which is the word “secret.” And you could again circle the word reward at the end of verse four. Circle reward, squiggly underline “secret.”
You could do that same thing in verse five at the end, if you pray to be seen by others, then you will have your reward in full. Now the correction, verse six pray to your Father who is in “secret.” If you do that, he will reward you.
Similarly verse 16, if you fast to be noticed by men, you will have your reward in full. But if you fast verse 18 in “secret,” your Father will reward you.
The main point naturally develops then: Serve in Secret to Receive Reward from God
First this morning, serve in secret.
Service before God
Giving in secret (left hand not to know what right hand is doing
Matthew 6:2–4 2 “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.
Don’t be like those hypocrites who gave to poor people on the street and who might as well blow a trumpet before giving money. Jesus is probably exaggerating to say “they’re showing off” literally, as we say, “tooting your own horn.” Yes, and they have their reward in full: which is temporary and insignificant so-called honour from sinful, covetous, and lustful people.
3 “But when you give to the poor, [Jesus now matches that exaggeration with another…when you give to the poor…] do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
This is radically the opposite to seeking your own glory. You give with your right hand and don’t even let your left hand know what you’re doing… As if, that were possible. But the exaggeration is clear: your giving is to be done in secret. Perhaps even to the point that you’re not even congratulating yourself, let alone letting someone else congratulate you. Righteousness done, not for your glory, but as unto God, for His.
ILL: Some Jews knew to do this, but not the Pharisees. The Mishnah, a written collection of oral Jewish teaching, speaks of a “Chamber of Secrets” in the temple (Sheqal. 5:6). Those wanting to give could leave gifts in private there and go away, without being noticed. And those who received help, didn’t know who helped them.
The Pharisees should have taken notice. And we should too! We must do righteous acts secretly for God’s glory, not ours. For His fame, not ours. First give yourself to the Lord, and then your money to those in need (2 Co. 8:5).
TRANS: Give in secret. It’s similar with praying…
Praying to Father who is in secret (inner room, close door)
Matthew 6:5–6 5 “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. [Don’t pray to be seen as ohhh… sooo godly…instead, ] 6 “But you, 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.
EXP: The correction we’re looking for is in verse 6: “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door”
The word for “inner room” is used in Luke 12:24 and it talks about the ravens and how they have no storeroom for their food. The word for inner room is translated as “storeroom” in Luke 12. Not extravagent at all, modest. And primarily, it was a room that was secluded and private. No altars, no fancy paintings, no icons, no candles, go into a storage room for your stuff!
Additionally, Jesus could be taking a swipe at the Pharisees here because the language that is used is very similar to Isa. 26:20.
Isaiah 26:20–21 20 Come, my people, enter into your rooms And close your doors behind you; Hide for a little while … [which sounds good but if I keep reading…]
[hide for a little while] Until indignation runs its course. 21 For behold, the LORD is about to come out from His place To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; And the earth will reveal her bloodshed And will no longer cover her slain.
Hide for a little while in prayer, you genuine follower of Jesus, until judgment comes on those hypocrites who persecute you.
Don’t pray for show, pray for the spread of God’s fame in the earth! Of course, this doesn’t mean you should never pray in public. But our praying should never be for our own glory.
TRANS: We’ll spend more time on prayer in coming weeks. But to keep with the main theme of the message today, serving in secret, notice the final topic addressed: fasting, v. 16.
Fasting noticed by the Father in secret (anoint head, wash face)
Matthew 6:16–18 16 “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. 17 [Here’s the correction] “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 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.
EXP: v.17 is our main concern: correcting hypocritical fasting. “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face.” Anoint your head with oil, like Ps. 23:5, He anoints my head with oil. It’s refreshing in the dry heat. Ps. 104:15 says olive oil glistens the face. And Jesus says wash your face, don’t have a gloomy face. Don’t neglect your appearance, anoint your head. Why? Verse 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret.”
You should hide the fact that you’re fasting from others. Serve in secret!
In other words, don’t show off that you are fasting. When you go without eating or some pleasure so that you can focus on the Lord, don’t tell others. Don’t tell other people that you are fasting.
ILL: I searched the web for Christians who say they were fasting, in direct contradiction to this verse.
One guy’s handle on Twitter is @FastingforJesus. He writes, “FINISHED A 24 HOUR FAST FROM 8/21/16 – 8/22/16 STARTED SUNDOWN WITH ABOUT 30 OTHER BELIEVERS. EVERYONE WELCOMED TO JOIN SAME DAY ALL YEAR.”
Another writes, “Don’t worry, like Jesus, I am fasting.” Still another writes strangely…”Hey everyone. I might be offline for a bit. My mother has me fasting and I decided to write a sermon since im fasting concerning revelation 12….” And then my personal favourite…
“So I’m fasting today and Coach Fetters just offered everyone a donut. Nice try Satan, but not today.” They post that kind of stuff on their social media accounts, things like facebook, twitter, and instagram.
And you would never do anything like that, right? I mean, “Thinking that you’re better than other people is like putting yourself on a pedestal. And I don’t do that. Christians who put themselves on pedestals are way down here but I’m not that kind of Christian.”
So, we should ask ourselves what the LORD asks His people in Zec. 7:5
Zechariah 7:5 5 “… ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months these seventy years [when in captivity in Babylon], was it actually for Me that you fasted?” Was it for Me that you gave, was it for Me that you prayed, was it for Me that you sang, preached, discipled, served, or even attended church today?”
Jesus is addressing the hypocrisy that too easily accompanies serving God. Of secondary importance, actually, is the mode by which the hypocrisy comes. That’s why Jesus gives 3 examples of the same thing! But we can see here that fasting is expected, verse 16, “Whenever you fast.” It’s expected that you will at one point go without food for a season to express some devotion to the Lord. Just like Jesus says in…
Matthew 9:15 15 …“The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
Jesus expected that when He left, His people would fast. And if your health allows for it, you should at times. If you’ve never prayed and fasted to humble yourself before the Lord and repent of sins, you should. But you shouldn’t tell anyone!
APP: Your life, whether you give, pray, fast, or whatever you do, it is to be to the glory of God alone, not yours. “!!!!!!Not for my glory LORD!”
ILL: Was it not Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon who said…
Daniel 4:30–32 30 … ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’ 31 [And was it not that] … “While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, and said, “you will be driven away from humanity, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’
ILL: Was it not Belshazzar, the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, and the last king of Babylon, who did not humble his heart, but exalted himself against the Lord of heaven; [Was it not his servants who] brought the vessels [the cups] of God’s house before him, and he and his nobles, his wives and his concubines would drink wine from them and praise the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, hear or understand. But the God in whose hand is Belshazzar’s life-breath and all his ways, he never glorified.”
Was it not him for whom the writing was literally on the wall and that very night Daniel proclaimed these things, he was killed and Darius the Mede received his kingdom?
ILL: Was it not Herod in Acts 12 who, after putting on his royal garment, took his seat on the throne and began delivering an address to them. 22 And that when the people kept crying out, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” 23 that immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died?
ILL: Was it not the hypocrite who said ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get’ but he didn’t go away justified? For he exalted himself. All he can expect from the Lord, therefore, is to be humbled!
This describes anyone who is serving self for self’s glory in Christ’s kingdom. That’s the direct opposite of “whoever wishes to come after Jesus, must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Him.”
Is it for Him that you serve, yea, that you clothe yourself, for Him that you eat and drink and yes, even breath?
APP: Psalm 115:1 1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us, But to Your name give glory because of Your faithful love, because of Your truth.
And then when you do serve the Lord and there is fruit, should you not say with Paul Phil. 2:12 it is God who has worked in me, both to will and to work for his good pleasure?
TRANS: Secondly and lastly, if it is for Him that you live and move and not for your own glory, Jesus promises reward.
To be honoured/rewarded by God
Verse 4, if you give in secret, not for your own glory, “your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
Verse 6, if you pray in secret, not for your own glory, “your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
And verse 18, if you fast for the Lord in secret, “then your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
Point: From whom you want reward shows whom you serve. REPEAT…From whom you want reward shows whom you serve. If you serve to show off in public and seek to get praise from men, it shows you are not serving the Lord, but men and you desire their reward.
But if you serve in secret and don’t showboat your godliness, that shows you serve the Lord and seek His reward.
ILL: And reward from God is greater than reward from people. Let’s say for the sake of illustration that you’re a very prominent person and you can only receive 1 award on any given night. But on this night, you happened to be offered 2 awards. One is a “most distinguished person award” and the other “greatest public servant” award. Which one would you choose? You’d pick the reward that’s the best, most satisfying in some way, means more, lasts longer, given by a more prestigious persons. If you were looking for honour, would it matter if one was a paper medal from a 5 year old or the Nobel Prize committee?
God Himself is the One promising a reward! And if you serve for men’s applause and are rewarded in full, how much more will God reward!
APP: Be motivated by reward! Jesus is motivating you to serve Him, not people, and doing so by reward. Did you catch that? Jesus motivates your secret service by promising reward.
Matthew 6:1 1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise [what?] you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” And that’s what you want!
Give secretly and your Father will reward you. Pray secretly and your Father will reward you. Fast secretly and your Father will reward you.
Jesus is motivating you to serve secretly, serve Him for His glory, by promising reward from God.
ARG: One could argue that reward has dominated this sermon on the Mount. From the very beginning, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs … is the kingdom of heaven.”
The promise of the kingdom, the promise of reward motivates your response to him. And when you are persecuted Jesus says “great is your reward in heaven.”
ARG: Let’s be clear: Jesus is not promising payment for your work. Jesus is promising a freely given reward. This is a reward, not a wage. And he is very generous in His rewards. Very generous! Jesus says in a parable of a master talking to his slave…
Matthew 25:21 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
You say, “Well, I’ve only been faithful in a few things.” You will be in charge of many things. Here’s a key point with rewards: the reward is disproportionate to the service given.
So, says a master gave his servant 100 day’s wages. And the slave made 100 more day’s wages from it. What do you think would be a reasonable reward for that? A percentage of the earnings?
Luke 19:17 “And [the master] said to the servant, ‘Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing [of multiplying 100 day’s wages], you are to be in authority over ten cities.’
What? He got 10 cities because he was faithful with 100 day’s wages. That’s quite generous. That’s Jesus. He’s generous in rewards.
He gives you grace to accomplish His tasks: Philippians 2:13 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
The power of Christ’s resurrection is working in you, Eph. 1 teaches. And He’s created you to do good works that show the fruit of salvation, Eph. 2 says. And so here’s the deal: He gives you grace to accomplish His tasks and then He rewards you beyond what you would even imagine is righteous.
Colossians 3:23–24 23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.
So don’t be more pious than the Bible! Be motivated by reward!
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Matthew 6.1-18
Rewards are all possible because of what our Lord Jesus has already done, not what we do. Look at Him, there on that cross, dying for you. All your sins laid on Him, all His righteousness laid on you, all through repenting toward Him. In your own strength, you’ve done nothing but sin against Him. And by His grace He’s rescued you. ??And by His grace He gives the reward of the inheritance?
How could I glory in my own righteousness, knowing of His rewards and the cross?
And if you’re in Christ this morning, He chose you, given you adoption into His family, redemption from sin, knowledge of the mystery of His will, how all things are summed up in Christ, and you among His other people are His inheritance. He has sealed you by the Holy Spirit, who guarantees your future inheritance in Christ.
Shall you boast in your gifts, your, power, your wisdom? His dying breath brought you life. And He glories in being good to His people, that you would gain from His reward. But why? I can answer that! For His own glory and for the spread of His fame! And that’s what we’re to be about.
All I know is that I’m a great sinner, but Christ is an even greater Saviour and that one day, by His grace, if I serve Him for His glory not mine, I can expect a generous reward. And if He gives me the opportunity in glory, I endeavour to lay every reward at His feet, saying…
Revelation 4:11 11 “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”
643 For All the Saints
EXP: first stanza. Stanza 3 is about us.
Colossians 3:23–24 23 Whatever you do [this week], do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.