“Rewardable Service” Don’t Honour God to be Honoured by Men
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Matthew 6.1
Matthew 6. Hypocrisy is all around us. There’s the antiporn Indonesian politician who advocated for and led the passing of strict pornography laws which included jail time, but who was caught watching porn during an actual session of parliament!
But then there was the antidrug motivational speaker … who was charged with dealing drugs. And we can’t forget about the judge who campaigned against drunk driving for years, even holding drunk driving court proceedings at local high schools…. you guessed it, he was arrested for drunk driving.
A California State Senator, one of the most visible supporters of gun control, was arrested for selling rocket launchers to terrorists.
Two school principals were caught … plagiarizing, the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous pleaded with the nurses for weeks for whiskey, only to be denied his wish on his death bed, and a popular craft store that fights against providing birth control for its employees, but invests in companies that manufacture birth control!
And then to top it all off: there was an anti-Semitic, anti-Jewish politician in Hungary who finally admitted that both his maternal grandparents were Jewish … and what’s more, they were survivors of the Holocaust. But then after his fall from politics, he became a full practising Jew!
Hypocrisy is all around us, but hypocrisy is in the churches as well.
Tim Keller, an American pastor, theologian, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, which regularly draws 5,000 people to its services, and the author of The New York Times bestselling books. He’s widely regarded as a leader in evangelicalism today.
A skeptical interviewer at a forum at Columbia University in New York asked, “do you believe that there is only one God and only one way to approach that God?” After an uncomfortable pause he says, “If…yes, if…k? I’m speaking as a Christian here. If Jesus was who He said He was and if He was bodily raised from the dead, then of course there would only be one way to God.”
Interviewer, “Where does that leave the millions of Muslims, Sikhs, and Jews? Are they sadly and completely deluded?” Keller responds, “They do not have God … if on the other hand…um…all I can ever say about this,” Keller continues, “God gives me information on a need to know basis… If they die and they do not have Jesus Christ, I don’t know. In other words, I’m on a need to know basis…this is all I know, you need Jesus. I know that God is wiser than me and more merciful than me.”
“People in other religions, unless they find Christ, I do not know any other way, but I also get information on a need to know basis. So if there is some trapdoor, I haven’t been told about it.”
Three years later, on a Christian website with a Christian audience, Keller responds to this interview, “[That] interview from three and a half years ago was the first public event like this I had ever done, and a number of my responses were less than skillful. One in particular—the one about whether there is any way of salvation outside of faith in Christ—was misleading and unhelpful.”
Keller explains he was lacking skill, one of the first public events like that he’d ever done, that he was “misleading” and “unhelpful.” I think he’s right, but I think it goes beyond that. I want people to think well of me. In my flesh, I don’t want people to “crucify me together with Christ”; rather, I want the watching world to applaud me and so I fear man, rather than God.
If that kind of a heart is in Tim Keller, it’s in me. I’m tempted this way too. Here’s what is in my heart and it’ll come out … except by God’s grace working in me, and it’s this: I will serve God to be honoured by men. Isn’t that a big problem? Something so glorious and wonderful, the only thing that is eternally profitable…worshipping God…my twisted human heart can turn it into the worship of self.
Don’t honour God in order to be honoured by men. Let’s read this longer section, Matthew 6:1-18.
Matthew 6:1–18 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. 7 “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. 8 “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. 9 “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread. 12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’ 14 “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. 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.
We’ve come to realize as we have studied the sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, that Jesus’ sermon is designed to convict us of sin that we might be ask to be saved from it, but as well it defines the Christian life.
It is designed to get you lost and it get you to see your need for someone to deliver you from your sins. But Jesus’ point is also to show what righteousness in his kingdom looks like.
In the last part of chapter 5, Jesus, 6 different times, corrected the peoples’ misunderstanding of God’s requirements. For example, even in our day, a lot of people think it is enough not to murder someone, but Jesus says that anger makes you as guilty as the murderer is.
At this point someone may be thinking to himself, “I’m going to live like Jesus wants me to from chapter 5.” Great, here comes a great danger along with that desire: hypocrisy.
TRANS: Just a quick word about what we’re doing this morning: This morning we’re simply diagnosing the problem of hypocrisy and letting Jesus condemn that in us. Next time, we’ll give the solution, the correction. So this is kind of a 2 part series on “Rewardable Service.” We’ll be preaching a large portion from our text that we read together, but taking a different kind of an approach. It’s more of a systematic approach rather than taking the verses in order. And so this morning we’re simply pointing out this statement: Don’t honour God for the purpose of receiving honour from men. To do so is to be a hypocrite.
Inductive study: Let’s do a little study about how Jesus describes hypocrites. What I’ll do is invite you to underline that word every time in occurs in our passage as well as mark up some important phrases along the way. Ready? k…Verse one … Beware of practising your righteousness before men… And we all have to do that. Ministry is public, so often. But here’s the problem, if you keep going in the verse: if you practice your righteousness before men … to be noticed by them. You could underline “to be noticed by them” and it’ll forever jump off the page every time you come to this section.
In verse two do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites, and you could underline hypocrites, same idea… They give… and here’s another important phrase “so that they may be honored by men.”
You have the word hypocrites in verse 5 who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners… “So that they may be seen by men,” and you could underline that phrase as well.
And then it down in verse 16, those who fast and show off by putting on a gloomy face do so as keyword: hypocrites do … And why do they do it? Another key phrase you can underline “so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting.”
This is hypocrisy. Hypocrisy in this passage is therefore, doing any righteous act toward God but so as to be noticed by men. It is a word that describes a clash or dissonance. In musical terms, dissonance is a lack of harmony among musical notes; something sounds really off key. Hypocrisy is like that. There is a disharmony between someone’s professed desire to please God but yet has behavior that is inconsistent with it.
Now, everybody has that kind of hypocrisy and it’s not exactly what Jesus is talking about.
However, listen carefully … the hypocrisy that Jesus is talking about in Matthew 6 is between a person’s hidden, evil desires and his outward show of godliness. On the outside it appears he is godly. On the inside, however, he desires to gain human praise and applause. That’s the hypocrisy that Jesus speaks of.
And so let’s be clear again this morning: Jesus is not talking about for example the man in Romans chapter 7 who in his heart of hearts really does want to do good but finds himself always doing evil. Jesus is not talking about that.
What Jesus is talking about is the evil desire for human praise with a certain kind of mask on it: the mask of faked godliness.
In fact the word hypocrite comes right out of the theatre. It’s like a playactor.
ILL: It’s like when my kids perform little shows for the family. I remember one series of shows that my oldest son did and he played all the roles in the play: the overbearing parent and then switched to the angry child and so forth.
The hypocrisy that Jesus is talking about works like that. On the outside, you appear one way. But on the inside, a totally different way. You just switch roles. It’s like you go to church acting spiritual and concerned for the lost, but in your heart and in private, you’re lambasting nonChristians.
There is a dissonance, a disharmony between what people see and how you are in your heart. And in this passage in Matthew 6, there is dissonance between the outward show of godliness with the inward desire for human praise.
Outwardly serving God with a desire to be praised by men. That’s the hypocrisy that Jesus talks about. Don’t honour God so that you’re honoured by men.
Beware of Hypocrisy
So, in Matthew 6:1-18, Jesus says “Beware”… He warns against practising your righteousness before other people so that you are noticed by them. And He warns in verse 1 that if you do that you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. Beware! Take the warning!
And then He gives three examples of such people. In verses 2-4, Jesus addresses giving to the poor. In verses 5 all the way to 15, Jesus addresses prayer, and then verses 16-18, Jesus addresses fasting.
In each one … giving, prayer, and fasting … to preach against those, Jesus uses 3 points: a warning, correction, and promise of reward. This morning, we’re just going to address the warnings of each one of them.
Jesus warns against doing those religious exercises to be honored by men and proclaims that they will have that reward. He then gives the correct way to perform the service: in secret. And promises reward: your Father will reward you for secret service.
TRANS: So, first look this morning at the hypocrisy performed and the reward for that hypocrisy. Wrong giving…
Service before men
Giving to be honoured by men (sounding a trumpet)
Matthew 6:2 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.
EXP: If Literal
It is unclear if this was an actual practice or not. Really sounding a trumpet before giving? Perhaps the temple trumpets were to sound to call on others to come and to give. And you could see all the little hypocrites, piously rushing to give a lot.
Or it could be that each giver would have his little trumpet and blow the trumpet and then give to the needy person on the street so as to call attention to his “righteousness.”
ILL: It’s like as a religious leader having a photo op with children or hugging and embracing the handicapped all the while saying, “move the camera over to get a good view of the handicapped so that everyone knows he’s handicapped.” That easily masquerades as authenticity and humility, but behind the mask, it’s all for the cameras.
APP: Have you ever given money to someone or helped someone materially and then in conversation with someone, just in passing, you mention your good deed and inside you feel your mind giving your spirit a high five and you feel all puffed up?
APP: Or do you bring meals to church for someone else and you love to do that so that they would think you are so godly? Don’t honour God in order to be honoured by men.
TRANS: It’s the same way with wrong praying…verse 5
Praying to be seen by men (love public standing and praying)
Matthew 6:5 5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; [how do hypocrites pray?] 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.
EXP: In first century Israel, there were fixed hours of prayer. And no doubt there were varying degrees of adherence to those hours of prayer, depending on how … ahem… how godly you were! And if “per chance” you were in public and during those hours of prayer, you could conveniently stand and pray in the synagogues are on the street corners. And no doubt for the extremely pious, they would providentially be on the busiest street corners during those hours of prayer.
Why? To make a show of their piety, of course! We’re trying to look as godly as possible, don’t you know?!
And you know, they were probably long and very eloquent. Great prayers on paper… But with a key member of the audience missing! God Himself!
ARG: For example, in Luke 18:11, Jesus condemns the Pharisee who “was praying thus to himself: ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and pay tithes of all that I get.” Yes, I am holier-than-thou!
Yes, but only for your self’s glory art thou holy! That makes you far less than holy!
APP: So, when you pray publicly or sing publicly, are you thinking about how others think how wonderful you are? Do you use your voice in such a way to draw attention to you and not to God? Do you appear more passionate for Christ than you really are? Or, since you’re in a church that emphasizes repentance, do you condemn yourself in order to appear holy?
TRANS: Now, wrong fasting…
Fasting to be noticed by men (gloomy face, neglect appearance)
Matthew 6:16 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.
There is one fast required in the Law of Moses and that was according to Leviticus 16:29-31, on the Day of Atonement. Other fasts were also observed public and private. Fasts could include going without food and maybe drink or limiting certain pleasures.
The hypocritical and self-promoting spirit knows what to do with this one. It is time to show the world all of my glorious holiness! I’ll put on gloomy face… Walk around with such a look of despondent sad piety… And even neglect my appearance, maybe some dishevelled hair will do the trick… And then go about weeping and wearing sackcloth sitting in ashes and sprinkling dust over my head… And while we’re at it, go ahead and tear the sackcloth as a sign of my top notch remorse!
ARG: Matthew 23:5–7 5 “But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries [little leather pouches on the forehead that contained Bible verses, or if today it’d be bible verse tattoos…for show!, or go on mission trips … for show, or volunteer at a soup kitchen for show, working in the nursery for show, ] and lengthen the tassels of their garments [tassels were required dress for the men in the OT and to lengthen them showed, no doubt, how much they actually were obeying God]. 6 “They love the place of honor at banquets and the [best] seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi [or love being called pastor] by men.
APP: Those people, right? Immune are you? No chance! All dressed up in your Sunday best, you profane His name arguing with your family on the way to church. And then when you reach the door, reach in your pocket and pull out the plastic smiles for your face! “Good morning, Pastor so nice to see you! I just want you to know how thankful I am for my family today.” As you slide by, turning up your nose at the one doesn’t look as dressed up as you are!
APP: Spiritually showing off! Christian showboating! Using a divine act to get praise from men! And of course, we don’t have to limit it to just giving, praying, and fasting
1. What about preaching, teaching, your Bible scholars publishing books and articles for show, or pushing your agenda to be noticed by others, self-promotion … preachers selling tickets? How many Christian events could you buy tickets for this year? Buying tickets to see a preacher? Really? That’s more common than you think!
2. What about singing and Christian music?
You could have gone to see the NewsBoys at State College Pennsylvania today and for $100 gotten what’s called an ultimate VIP (Very Important Person) experience, including 4 pm early entry for best seats to watch them worship God, Newsboys United souvenir laminate, preshow Q&A, photo op with the band, and a 40-song sampler from NewReleaseToday!
And to see Casting Crowns, the more you pay, the closer you can get to the stage to watch them worship Jesus!
And when we sing, how do we sing? Do we sing for outward show and the words aren’t even close to our experience? One parody tried to bring this out…
“I surrender …some. I surrender …some. Jesus I will give you little, I surrender some.”
Or this one was sung by a lady, “I stand amazed at my hairdo; My stylist outdid herself. I lift my hands and see my nails. They match my eyes oh so well.”
There’s a lot of truth in that joke! That’s how we can really be on the inside when we’re singing! It’s all for self, singing that reaches no further than the person in front of you.
3. Showing off Bible knowledge in discussions with others.
4. Or telling others with pride of your evangelistic efforts or how much you’ve been encouraging to someone else. Giving prayer requests about how “burdened” you are for someone …all so that you appear more godly than you really are!
We could go on and on! All of these can be public acts of worship to God.
But when sinners get a hold of them, we can turn into actors, playing a role for the praise of men. Using modes of praise to God to receive praise from men. That’s glory theft! Don’t honour God in order have the praise of men!
TRANS: If you live like this, Jesus says you’ll get what you’re looking for. Honour from men.
To be honoured/rewarded by them and not the Father
Giving to be honoured by men: reward in full
Praying to be seen by men: reward in full
Fasting to be noticed by men: reward in full
You could maybe circle this phrase…Jesus says at the end of Matthew 6:2, “truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.”
Verse 5 those who pray like this for the praise of men at the end of the verse, “they have their reward in full.” That is an eerie promise.
And in verse 16 when you fast for the sake of being noticed by others… same phrase, “you have your reward in full.” And the way Jesus says that, I’m not so sure anymore if I would want that.
Giving, praying, fasting, and whatever else Christian service all for the purpose of being rewarded … by men. Jesus is talking about motivations. The hypocrites are motivated by praise from men.
Hypocrites will get praise from men in full, but that’s all they will get. Nothing else… and one day the praise of men will die, the elevated thoughts they think of you will pass away, and their endearing words for your “ministry” will fade, because all men die.
Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the evil days come, and the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; 2 [Remember thy creator before] the sun, the light, the moon, and the stars, are darkened, and the clouds return after the rain: 3 In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, 4 And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall sing softly; 5 Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: 6 Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. 7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. 8 Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.
That day of darkness from Ecclesiastes 12 is coming … and until that time, know…
Proverbs 29:25 25 The fear of man brings a [trap]… and (1 Samuel 16:7) … but God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
2 Chronicles 16:9 9 “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”
John 2:25 25 [And Jesus did] not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” And He showed that when a chapter earlier …
John 1:47 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”
You best recognize whom to fear, and before Whom you serve…
Psalm 139:1–4 1 O Lord, You have searched me and known me. 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. 3 You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
You who have heard Jesus condemn the Pharisees for their hypocrisy but yet you serve God in order to be honoured by men, I ask you what one thief on a cross of execution asked the other thief…
Luke 23:40 40 “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation [as those Pharisees]?
Gospel: But that day of darkness need not be a day of darkness, when all the praise ends!
But if instead of the self-righteous Pharisee who prayed “thus with himself,” if you consider yourself like the most despised of Jewish society at the time, the Jewish tax collector who sold himself to Rome to collect Jewish taxes…
Luke 18:13–14 13 “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
If that’s you, when your silver cord is loosed, or your golden bowl be broken, or your pitcher be broken at the fountain, or your wheel broken at the cistern…you won’t even see death and the praise won’t stop, it’ll only have just begin!
For there on that glorious day after you have lived your life for the reward from the Father, serving Him in secret, there you shall receive it and then your lips be filled with glorious eternal and joyful praise to your gracious heavenly Father.
396 Only a sinner saved by grace