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The Giving That God Rewards

May 21, 2017 Pastor: Don Green Series: The Sermon on the Mount

Topic: Sunday Sermons Scripture: Matthew 6:2-4

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We are continuing our study of the Sermon on the Mount today and for most of the summer months we will be in Matthew 6. It is a spectacular text of Scripture and as I think about my own life, I don't know that I could say that there has been any passage of Scripture that has changed my own life more than Matthew 6, and so it's with a sense of reverence and anticipation that I come to this text with the knowledge of what God has done in my own heart through studying this passage over the years and also with a sense, an eager sense of prayer and anticipation that that which has profited me would also turn to be to your own great spiritual profit here. We're standing on the brink of a life-changing text in these coming three or four months as we go through Matthew 6, all of it dealing with the nature of the righteousness that Christ works into his true disciples and what he does in their hearts. And when you look at Matthew 6 from an overview kind of a 30,000 foot view, the view from the jets, so to speak, and you look down on the lay of the land on it, he's talking in very broad terms about true righteousness and he works that out in particulars that go to the very heart of what it means to be a Christian and the very heart of what it means for you to have a heart that is in line with that which Christ would have it to be.

 

In chapter 6, verse 1, look at it with me. He says, "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven." That's kind of a summary theme of the whole passage. You might ask, "What does that righteousness look like? Where does that impact my heart? Where does it impact my life and in my thinking?" Well, Jesus goes on and deals with the area of giving in verses 2 through 4 which will be our text for this morning; he deals with the whole matter of prayer in verses 5 through 15; he deals with the matter of fasting in verses 16 to 18; he addresses your priorities in life in verses 19 to 24; and then he deals with the whole matter of anxiety in verses 25 through 34, all of these areas being matters which go to the fundamental foundation of the way that you approach life and the way that you think and the way that you live. These are heart matters. These are matters of the inner man. They are matters of motive and attitude and trust that define everything else in your life. The external circumstances of life: your employment, your family relationships, the matters of prosperity and all of that.

 

As you study Matthew 6, you realize that they all sink into secondary significance compared to the manner in which you walk before God with your inner man and that's what we have before us here, is the opening illustration as Jesus calls us to live this righteous life in verses 1 through 4. Let's read them together. Jesus says,

 

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.

 

Then he begins to illustrate exactly what he has in mind about living your righteousness before your Father in heaven rather than to be noticed by men. Verse 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. 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.

 

Now, if you are here for the first time or visiting in just a casual manner, perhaps you found our church through whatever means and you're relatively new to our church, it might not surprise you to hear a preacher preaching on giving; that tends to be what sometimes happens in a lot of churches. But this, it's important for you to understand if you're visiting is to realize that this is not a targeted message, this just comes in the natural flow of our teaching in Matthew 5, 6 and 7. It just happens to be the day on which the Lord has brought you to our teaching. We do not go out of our way to teach on giving here at Truth Community Church, we don't pass an offering plate, we do not do heavy-handed things in the way of finances, but today's text in the providence of God brings us to the matter of giving and what Christ would have us to say and to think about giving and before we get into the text itself, verses 2 through 4, I want to expand out a little bit and consider the whole matter of New Testament giving because a proper perspective on it will help you appreciate what Jesus says all the more.

 

In the New Testament, the Bible calls New Testament believers to be those who give. Jesus speaks about it here in the context of giving to the poor, Scripture speaks about it also in terms of the responsibility of believers to give in the context of the local ministry, the local church in which they are involved. So in 1 Corinthians 16:2 it says, "On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come." And so the New Testament call is to a regular consistent giving as a part of life in the local church, and the idea, as Scripture says elsewhere, the idea is that those who share – watch this, this all makes perfect sense, there is nothing heavy-handed about this – the idea from Scripture is this: that those who share in the benefit of the spiritual life of a ministry should understand that they have a responsibility to support the material side that makes that ministry happen. And so in Romans 15:27 it says, "if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things." So there is this understanding that we're not simply receivers as part of the local church, we not only receive the ministry of a local church, but we also give to support it. That's basic New Testament teaching on the nature of ministry and the way that those that are involved in a local church would act to support it. That's basic.

 

Now, however, contrary to what you may have been taught and what may have been the example in past places where you have been, New Testament giving is not – put your seatbelts on – it is not according to a compulsory 10% tithe. That may surprise some that have come from other churches. It is not according to a 10% tithe and I'm going to show you that very clearly, but this idea of a tithe is based on a distorted and wrongly applied understanding of an Old Testament principle that was installed by God to support the operation of the nation of Israel and to support the Levites who had priestly functions and helped to govern the nation and that was for that time and that dispensation. It is not the New Testament principle that governs giving within the local church. It's a much different principle that is at stake and so it's not giving in the New Testament, it's not according to a compulsory tithe of 10% as if God owns 10% but you own the other 90%. Well, right there you know something is wrong because God owns it all, right? To have Christ as your Lord means that everything that you have and everything that you own belongs to him and so we can put away with foolish, silly questions, "Do I tithe off of my gross pay or off of my net pay?" None of that has anything to do with New Testament giving. And so it's greatly liberating and it takes it from the realm of compulsory regulation and puts it into a different realm that we're going to see in just a moment.

 

Let me also say this: giving is not in response to high pressure pulpit demands, endless fundraising letters and fundraising emails and people checking on you. There are churches that do this, that check your giving and touch base with you and say, "What's happening with this?" None of that. None of that is reflected in the picture of New Testament giving and nothing could be more alien to the process than what we do at Truth Community Church. And I think it's fair to say, I think it's necessary to say for those of you maybe that are newer to our church, we do not pass an offering plate. We've got little boxes outside the place where people can give but there is nothing visible about it. There is nothing that takes place like that. We rarely mention it and we have never asked anybody once for their giving and there is no one in our church aside from one or possibly two bookkeepers who have any idea what anybody gives in the church. The elders do not review that. We never review that. I have no idea who gives what except for what Nancy and I give.

 

So it's just important for you to understand the spirit with which we approach this topic. When we started this church some years ago, we understood that people were coming out of environments where they were used to capital campaigns on an annual basis and sermons every six weeks on giving and scolding because they're not tithing their money and their time and we wanted to set a different pattern to say this is something else, this is something different, we're not like that. And one of the things that we like about this is that it frees us in leadership from having to do that, to talk about that, and it frees those who are a part of our church to be able to come to church knowing that they're not going to be browbeaten for money, but rather they're going to come into a place where Christ hopefully is lifted up through the teaching and the singing and where people are free to pursue their spiritual lives without an external pressure that finances are at the heart of what's really being expected and what's really wanted by your presence here.

 

I can tell you plainly, speaking on behalf of our elders, we don't want your money. That's not what we're after. We want you to give your heart to Christ. We want you to become loyal faithful servants of his. We want your soul to be in heaven when you die rather than for you to die with unforgiven sin on your account and to perish miserably in hell forever and ever. There are eternal matters that are at stake and those are far more important, we're far more concerned to see people walking with Christ and experiencing the joy of the Spirit and walking in obedience to him and being contributing members in terms of giving of themselves to the life of the body, to the fact that I can honestly tell you the money aspect of this hardly ever crosses my mind. That's just not what we are about at our church, and if you stay here for any length of time, I'm confident that you'll see that that's vindicated by the way that we conduct ourselves in ministry. Giving is not in response to high-pressure demands.

 

Now, how is it then, how is it that you can conduct a ministry without that? Well, it starts here and when you think about giving and the New Testament principles of giving, there is only one place to start to think rightly about it, and when you put these two ideas side-by-side, you are going to instantly see the difference and you are instantly never going to want to go back to the old way of doing things if you come out of that environment.

 

On the one hand, you can start with the tithe and, you know, quoting out of Malachi, you know, you're robbing God by not giving your tithe and all of a sudden you've got all of that guilt in place, never explaining the context of that. You can start there and start by calculating 10% and like the Pharisees did, divvying out one penny out of every dime that you get with great precision in order to satisfy some principle of mathematics. Beloved, could an aspect of serving Christ ever truly come down to just a matter of a mathematic equation that a second grader could do? Could it ever be that way and be consistent with the spirit of the New Testament? It could never be that way, could it? It could never be reduced to such an external principle as that but you could start there if you wanted to do that and it will lead you in a particular direction. Or the biblical way to think about these things, the right way to think about these things, is to start with Jesus Christ. To start with Christ himself and to think about Christ and to think about what Scripture says about him and let that be the cornerstone and let that be at the heart of the way that you think about all giving.

 

And what can we say about Christ? Well, let's look over at the book of Galatians 1 and our lofty goal would be to silence all men who manipulate the people of God for their own financial gain with this message here this morning. We aim for nothing less than that.

 

What can we say about Christ? Look at Galatians 1. We had our Good Friday meditation from this text not too long ago. Galatians 1:3, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore." Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." Turn over to the book of Matthew 20, beginning in verse 28, actually beginning and ending in verse 28. I'm really only going to read this one verse, hard as that is to believe. Verse 28, "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." And what does John 3:16, such a familiar famous verse say to us? "That God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever might believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life."

 

Beloved, do you realize what all of this says? This tells us that giving started with Christ, giving started with the person of God himself. God the Father sent his Son in order to give. Christ came and what did he do? He gave, and not just meagerly but he gave himself. He gave his life over. He gave his blood over for the salvation of his people that it might be a ransom to save them and to deliver them and to buy them out of the slavery of sin in order to give them eternal life, and that that giving is wedding to, it is joined to, the whole aspect, the whole attribute of the love of God; that God loved us, that Christ loved us and gave himself up for us and didn't simply give out of a portion of the proceeds of his trade in carpentry, but he gave himself. Beloved, when you think rightly about giving from a New Testament perspective, you realize that we give because Christ first gave. Christ first gave. He gave of himself and our giving is only a response to him.

 

So a Christ-centered approach to giving shapes the entire way that you think about the rest of what the New Testament says about it. Look, if you are a Christian, you are only a Christian because Christ first gave himself for you and, therefore, everything that you would ever give whether it is of your time, of your talent, of your life or of your financial resources, everything is a response to – watch this, beloved – it is a response to a far greater act of love and giving that was first made on your behalf by the Lord Jesus Christ. Only then do you begin to have the right perspective.

 

Now all of a sudden it is not a legalistic response to a 10% demand from a high-pressure pastor, this is something totally different. Now you're looking vertically, you're looking into heaven. You're seeing the Son of Man ascended, sitting, as it were, seeing it metaphorically speaking, sitting at the right hand of God where he has accomplished your salvation, where he intercedes for you, intercedes for the saints, from which he will one day come, and in the greatness of his giving heart, complete the fullness of your salvation which he purchased for you by that act of self-sacrifice on the cross. No longer it's, "I must give 10%," now it's, "Oh, look at my Christ!" and your heart is overflowing with gratitude in response and you give in response to that.

 

Well, Scripture illustrates this for us. Go to 2 Corinthians 8. This is all by way of introduction. 2 Corinthians 8. How is it then in response to this great gift of Christ giving of himself? You know, there is no higher gift that Christ could have given. Christ himself is the gift. Christ himself gave it. There was nothing greater that he could give than himself to us and he did it gladly. This was all a principle of grace, of undeserved favor, and in 2 Corinthians 8, you see Paul speaking and he says, "Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality." He says, "In affliction and in poverty they were liberal and generous with what they gave." He says in verse 3, "I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints." Do you see the spirit of it? The eagerness? The generosity? The denial of self? The forgetfulness of affliction and poverty and saying, "I just want to give. I want to be a part of the ministry," is what Paul is commending them for.

 

This was an overflow of a prior heart attitude of gratitude toward Christ and you see that most plainly in verse 5. They even surprised the Apostle Paul with their attitude. In verse 5 they said, "and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God." Their giving was not to satisfy a financial obligation. Their first response to the Gospel was to give themselves, to give their hearts, to give their lives to Christ and then the financial support that they were able to give flowed from that prior self-sacrifice to Christ. "Christ, I give myself to you. You gave yourself to me, I give myself to you." This is the prior giving that God requires, that God calls us to, and you cannot bypass the giving of your life to Christ and think that giving in some kind of sterile philanthropic manner is pleasing to God. The call of God on your hearts is for you to give yourself to Christ first. Yourself to Christ first and then the other kind of giving flows.

 

And beloved, when you have been saved by Christ, when you realize the magnificent precious gift that has been given to you in your salvation, that Christ himself now belongs to you and you belong to him, that the sinless, loving, gracious, Son of God is your Lord and King and he gladly owns you, not only as his disciple but one of the dear children in his family, owning you as a brother, not ashamed to call you a brother or a sister in Christ, and you realize that the most precious one in the universe, the highest one in all of creation, the firstborn of all creation, the one of highest rank, owns you and welcomes you and gave himself to you, then that has a revolutionary impact on your heart so that in response to a prior generosity given to you, you're no longer selfish and miserly with your things, rather you just want to give everything back to Christ with a full abundance of liberality, a full abundance of generosity that is in keeping with a prior generous act that has been given to you as a gift by Christ.

 

There is no comparison. I fear no contradiction that someone, I fear nothing, I fear no man that can make tithing sound that lofty, that can make tithing sound as great as Christ, with the way that it's traditionally handled in most churches. No. No. We recognize Christ. We give the priority to him. We love him. We respond to him and we respond to him with a fullness and an unreserved devotion of life and affection that makes mathematical calculations and exposes them for what they really are: petty, selfish, miserly by comparison to giving ourselves over fully to Christ.

 

With that in mind, look at 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 and we get down to more of the details of exactly, "Well, then what is New Testament giving? How do we work this out?" And in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 it says, "Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully." Look at this in verse 7, "Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." What is God's call on your life and your giving? What is the New Testament principle that animates giving? It is this: New Testament Christians give by cheerful individual purpose that delights to give. It's according to the purpose of your own heart, according to the means that you have, done with a grateful response to the Christ who saved you; giving yourself to him first and then in response to that, it's a matter up to your individual discretion. It should just be cheerful. It should be joyful. It should be purposed in your approach.

 

So each one develops an approach according to his own means. You will find no commandment to tithe anywhere in the New Testament. And we do this in a way, our heart attitude for this is this expresses thanks to Christ for my salvation, and it is a desire to support the spiritual things in which we benefit. Beloved, when you see it from that perspective, when Christ is at the center of it, when his self-giving of himself as a ransom for your soul is at the center of it, then your giving becomes an act of worship in response to him rather than an obligation to men.

 

All of that perspective informs us as we now turn back to Matthew 6. What Christ does here in Matthew 6 is that he shows us the giving that God rewards. He shows us the giving that God rewards and he contrasts the wrong way and the right way to give. There is the right way to do it, there is a wrong way to do it. Christ teaches us by way of contrast here this morning.

 

Let's look at verses 2 to 4 again and reset the stage as we enter into our text now. 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. 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.

 

Here Jesus adds another dimension to it, talking about the motive before men as you give, and he contrasts it with the wrong way to give with the right way to give. That's the simple structure of our passage here this morning: the wrong way to give and the right way to give.

 

Let's look, first of all, at the wrong way to give. Beloved, in light of the way that we have explained things and brought Christ to bear on things, all of this should be self-evident to you at this point. Since giving is properly an act of worship toward God, an expression of thanksgiving to God for the great gift that he has given us in Christ, and since it's something that's vertically oriented, then the desire for the praise of men as we do it should be far from our hearts. The motive to have men acknowledge it and praise us and recognize it and to honor us for it should be the furthest thought from our mind because this giving is not humanistically oriented and saying, "Oh, Christ, I see what you have done for me. Let me give in a way that is a reflection, is a small reflection of the far greater act of giving that you did for me when you gave yourself up for me and you loved me. Well, I just want to give a measure of love in return. I want to give a measure of a gift in return." Beloved, it's an act of worship and, therefore, it should not be that which you are calculating to get a response from men in. And Jesus had to rebuke the spirit of his age. Look at verse 2, he says because you're to practice your righteousness not before men to be noticed of them, but before your Father who is in heaven, therefore verse 2, "So," there's the connection, because verse 1 is true, here is what flows from it in verse 2, "So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you."

 

Now, it's not entirely clear what Jesus was referring to as we look at it 2,000 years later, exactly what he's referring to. Some think the trumpet is simply metaphorical. You know, we have the phrase, "That man likes to blow his own horn," and just a metaphor of saying of any manner of drawing attention to yourself as you do it. Other commentators think that perhaps Jesus is referring to the blowing of trumpets that would call worshipers to the temple and people would give at that time. Still others think that Jesus was referring to a trumpet-shaped receptacle which was the device where people made their donations and if you threw coins in, it would make a loud sound and, therefore, they would sound the trumpet with putting their coins in. Whatever the actual instance, whatever the actual fact is that Jesus had underlying what he's saying here, beloved, the point is clear enough: the men that he was rebuking were calling attention to their giving and Jesus condemns the self-promotion that was at the heart of it.

 

Look at the end of verse 2 with me. He calls them hypocrites. Those people that had a mask on, they're pretending to be generous worshipers as they give or generous people as they give to the poor, that's what they're pretending, that's what it looks like on the outside, but Jesus says inside what they're really after is for men to congratulate them on their generosity. They were just self-promoters. They were buying recognition from men. "Look at that generous person. Let's put his name on the cornerstone of the building." They weren't giving, in some manner of another they were calling attention to self and Jesus says that has no reward with God. That's not righteous giving. This is unrighteous and it is wrong.

 

Sometimes it's subtle. You've probably heard people giving financial seminars in the church in the name of tithing and they'll say something like this – I've heard this in times gone by, words to this effect, "You know, I just thank God for the financial blessing that he's given to me since we started giving over and above our 10% tithe." Really? Really? You're wanting to thank God with that? Are you now? Why was it necessary, why couldn't you just thank God? Why did you have to inject your giving over and above your 10% tithe that I would know that? That self-promotion dishonors God.

 

There is another way to do it and I have the most painful memory of being guilty of violating this passage and it was just a few years ago. I was in a foreign country. I was actually in Beirut, Lebanon, and I was speaking at a church there and contrary to the way we do it, their tradition is for men to sit on the platform. If you're going to have a part in the service, if you're speaking or something, they've got kind of the big chairs and you're sitting up there and you're looking out on everybody. And that's fine, you know, they can do that and I'm happy to go along with whatever cultural tradition they want to do with that. They were not the problem in this illustration, I was.

 

Well, when I preach, I like to have my pockets almost completely empty. I don't like to have anything in my pocket that's weighing me down or clanging against the pulpit or anything like that and so I empty everything out of my pockets before I step in to preach and, of course, keeping my pattern, I did just that. Now, I had no idea when I did that, the way that they practiced their giving and the way they do their collection there. They not only pass the baskets, the clothe things with the handles on them, they not only pass them down the row of the audience, they come up on the platform so that the guy, whoever is up there, can give. I had nothing to give. I would have put anything in that that was possible but I couldn't put anything in because I didn't have anything to give and I know everybody's watching me. And do you know what I did? I faked it. That wasn't good. That was a violation of this passage and in the pressure of the moment, I'm in a different culture, I have no idea what's expected or anything like that, I just faked it.

 

Now, I know that the guy who was taking the collection knew that I faked it because there was no added weight to the bag when I was done. The point is that we're all susceptible to this and we have to guard our hearts against this. I needed to have been more rightly rooted in, at that moment I need to be more rightly rooted in pleasing God with sincerity and not with hypocrisy rather than practicing a deception by pretending to put something in the plate that I didn't really have. Why did I do that? I wanted to please the men that were in front of me. I wanted them to think well of me. I was wrong. That was a sin against God for me to do that.

 

So it enters into our hearts at all times and so what we have to be mindful of is the way that we guard ourselves against those kinds of things is that we work through these principles and we understand the vertical dimension of giving in a way that makes us indifferent to the purposes of men and what men look at and what men see. The self-promotion of that comes from pride and Jesus calls you and he calls me away from that desire for the attention of men, the approval of men; calls us away from that even in moments of weakness, calls us away from that and gives us a totally different approach to giving. That's the wrong way to give.

 

Christ here shows us how to change and to please our heavenly Father. He shows us that which brings reward from God. He shows us, the second point here this morning, he shows us the right way to give. The right way to give. And what Christ does here is he calls you to hide your giving from those who would have the opportunity to observe it.

 

Look at verse 3. He calls you to secrecy. In verse 3 he says, "But when you give to the poor," the contrast here is like, "This is what they do, but you, here's what you do as my disciple. But when you give to the poor," he says, verse 3, "do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing." All Jesus is saying here is when you give in your heart, don't dwell on it. Don't rehearse it in your mind. Don't say to yourself, "Oh, I gave this, this and this here and, oh, look at how I did over here and what I gave to this person and what I gave to this church," and congratulate yourself in the inner sanctum of your own mind. Jesus says, "Just don't dwell on it. Do your giving and then move on to something else in your mind in such a way, so to speak, that your left hand doesn't even known what your right hand is doing. Don't keep mental records."

 

And how is it that you can do this and what is it that motivates you to embrace this approach, to put your pride to death, to crucify, to mortify that self-regard and that self-congratulation in a way that you are not dwelling on what a great giver you are? How can you do that? Beloved, go back to where we started. Go back to where we started and remember Christ and put him at the center of it, the center of your thinking. Beloved, don't you see that your giving, whatever it is, how generous and however great it is, no matter what you give, that it could never measure up to the great gift that Christ has given of himself to you? When Christ is rightly exalted in your heart, there is no room for pride in self. Christ gave a far greater gift with such voluntary love, you say, "I don't even want to think about what I've given. I just honor Christ for what he has given to me." He gave his life on the cross for your sins, your $50 in the plate doesn't measure up to that.

 

So you think on him, not on self, and when you meditate on Christ, you don't even want to talk about your own giving because by comparison it wasn't even a sacrifice, was it? Was it? It wasn't even a sacrifice. You're simply giving out of the bounty that God first gave to you. Everything that you have is something that you received, even the power to earn wealth is something that God gave to you. And so you have wealth from the power that God gave you, then you're just giving back in response to that which he's already given to you and so your giving becomes not a source of pride and self-reflection, it becomes just another opportunity to reflect back, "I was able to give because God has blessed me and he's blessed me richly and I'm so grateful for that. Now, let's think about something else." You give and you move on. You don't throw your arm out patting yourself on the back.

 

That's the idea of keeping the left hand from knowing what the right hand is doing, but Christ doesn't simply rebuke wrong motives here, he sets forth the true motive that God will bless. He tells you exactly how to give, he tells you, "This is the way that you can give and know that you are positioning yourself for the blessing of God." Now, when I hear that, my ears perk up because I want the blessing of God, don't you? Wouldn't you want a gracious God of all of creation, wouldn't you want his blessing? Wouldn't you want to be on the favorable side of God where you have positioned yourself in such a way that God is favorably disposed to bless you more than he otherwise would have if you were giving in another manner?

 

Christ sets it forth here in verse 4. He says, "so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. Do you know what? Jesus here is rebuking pride throughout this passage and calling us not to live our lives to be noticed by men, right? And that's all about pride. That's all about pride and so pride here, your pride is the threat to receiving the blessing of God in this realm of your life. How is it, then, that you can escape the tentacles of pride in your own heart in this realm? It's quite simple: you give in a way that makes sure that no one can notice it, that no one can see it, in a way that no one is going to praise you for what you do. And so rather than making a great public display of it as the Pharisees did, rather than making a great public display of it, and a church that does this should be rebuked, having people come to the front and making a great public display of their commitment to give is forcing them to violate this passage. They shouldn't do that. If they want to have fundraising things and commitments, fine, just do it in secret. Don't make it this big public display that puts pressure on everybody to participate. Remember what 2 Corinthians 9 said, it's not under compulsion. You don't compel people to do that. That's not right. It's contrary to the whole spirit. Christ voluntarily gave himself and we give in response to that.

 

So you give in a way that others can't see it, you move on, you don't think about it in your own mind and the net result of that is that it cannot feed your pride because men cannot notice it and, therefore, men cannot praise you for it. Men cannot honor that which they do not see but God sees the unseen. God sees what is done in secret and God can reward and that's no restraint on him blessing you for it. So Jesus says, "Just handle this aspect of your life, this practice of righteousness in your life, do it in a way that minimizes the opportunity for anyone to see it and you'll position yourself for the blessing of God."

 

Now, a question that I think comes up and is worthy of being answered in our American situation. Not everybody around the world has this issue. Would this forbid the issuance of receipts for tax purposes? We're getting down to the nitty-gritty here, aren't we? And here's the way I look at that. I look at that and I say, no, this is not what Jesus was talking about here. Remember, the idea that Jesus is rebuking is that people who would see you would praise you and think well of you in your giving. Do you know what? The Internal Revenue Service does not care what you give. All they want is to know the numbers. They crunch the numbers and move on. You're not going to get a letter from the IRS congratulating you and praising you for being such a generous giver to your church or to any other ministry. They don't do that. That's not the purpose of it. This is a financial transaction with the government that has nothing to do with the spirit of pride that Christ is talking about here. If you are compelled in your own conscience and say, "I want to give without regard to tax consequences," I have friends that do that, God bless you. You don't have to do that but I don't believe that Scripture forbids it because the issue is not one of pride as you're sending in your tax returns to the IRS, and so I think we just look at these things with a measure of sanctified common sense and see what Christ is saying and what he's not saying.

 

So with all those things set aside, what's the result of this kind of giving? What's the result of a Christ-centered approach to giving where we exclude the applause of men from our concern? We recognize Christ as the ultimate giver. God, our Father, lovingly giving us Christ without compulsion for our salvation from sin, and now we're in his family and we're giving in response to it, what's the result of that when we're giving in this spirit that the New Testament points us to? This is wonderful. Look at the end of verse 4 with us as Christ says, "your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."

 

You know, this verse presupposes the omniscience of God. I don't know if you've ever thought about it that way. This verse presupposes the omniscience of God. He knows everything that's happening. Men only see a fraction, a portion, a small measure of what's happening, God sees it all. And when you give in the manner that Christ prescribes and that Scripture prescribes, God sees that when men don't and God says, "That pleases me." Do you know why? Because it's an act of worship, it is an act of obedience to your heavenly Father, that Christ says, "That pleases God," and when God is pleased, he will bless you for that.

 

Now, some people overthink it. I thought about leaving this out because just I don't even want to go down this little rabbit trail, but let's chase a bunny for a couple of steps anyway. Some people say, "Well, even that pollutes it. If you're motivated by a reward, then your giving is not really completely selfless if you're looking for a reward in it." And I say to that, let's assume the best about their intention, I would look at them and say, "Brother, sister, don't overthink this. Don't overthink this." It pleased Christ on his own initiative to make this promise and as much as we would want to obey Christ and his commands, how much more should we want the blessing and the reward of what he voluntarily promised to us? Christ commands us, "Give in this way," and it pleased God to attach a promise to that, that his blessing will flow as you do. Jesus promises it. Jesus commands this. Then that's all I need to say it's right for me to seek it, it's right for me to orient my life in a way that says, "God blesses those, he is a rewarder of those who seek him." Of course he is. He's a good God and if we seek him in sincerity and in informed obedience in response to his word, of course he would bless us. He's good and gracious. As we give in this way, we are simply orienting our life in submission to the word of God and doing what Christ says and if there is promise of blessing attached to it, so much the better. That helps motivate me all the more to gratitude and eagerness in giving, you think to yourself when you see that.

 

Let's just talk for a moment about this reward of which Christ speaks. Look at it again here with me at the end of verse 4, "your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you." Then in verse 5 he says, "When you pray," and he changes the subject. He just kind of throws the idea, the concept of reward, he just kind of throws it out there and leaves it hanging. He doesn't tell us the specifics of what it will be. He doesn't tell us when it will be. He doesn't tell us what it will be. He just says it will be. There will be reward attached to it.

 

Well, beloved, I think we can piece a couple of things together about it. There will certainly be reward in this life as you grow spiritually and have greater intimacy with your Father. I don't think the point of this is that Jesus will make you rich as you give. This is not the verse to look to to try to concoct a health and wealth prosperity Gospel out of. That's not the point of this at all, but surely as we give, we grow in assurance, we grown in intimacy with our Father, we grow in understanding and in the peace and joy and love which belong to his obedient children.

 

Surely that's part of it and Scripture speaks and points us to a future reward as well. Matthew 10:42, Jesus said, "whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward." In other words, God honors, God blesses the smallest of service truly done in the name of Christ. He honors and he blesses even in the smallest manner of giving that is done in the spirit of which we have spoken here this morning.

 

And I look at it this way: I am more than content to let God determine what the reward is.  I don't want this to be according to some schedule, to some table that tells, "This kind of X giving produces this kind of Y reward." I don't want it to be that way and you shouldn't either if you know your God, if you know your Christ. You should just be content to say, "I know that God will bless this and I know who God is, and what God does is that God blesses exceeding, abundantly beyond all that I could ask or think. Do you know what? I'm content to let him determine the reward. I'll just situate my heart and conduct my life in a way that Christ instructs me to do in this area and then I'll just patiently wait for God to unveil what the reward of that is."

 

So where does this leave us, beloved? We can wrap all of this up. Forget about pleasing men and forget about the rules of men. Have no fear in setting aside heavy-handed fundraising techniques that are laid upon you to make you guilty. Set aside the idea of getting plaques and honors and recognition in response to your giving. Put all of that aside, beloved. Don't seek that with the way that you give, rather seek to place yourself in the realm of what Christ has called you to, the place where God alone sees, the place that God has promised to bless, that place where you are remembering the great act of sacrifice on the cross that was the cost of your salvation, where Christ gave himself for you. Give in that area in response to that greater gift, and then trust God for what he brings to you as a result. That's New Testament giving according to Christ.

 

Let's bow together in prayer.

 

Father, we pray that you would, indeed, sift our hearts on these matters. We've spoken about this in the context of giving but the greater point is to not love the praise of men. Father, help us to love you far more than we love men. Help us not to be concerned with what men think about us and certainly not to seek their praise as a defining aspiration of our life. Father, the breath of men is in their nostrils. Men are passing and men are so very fickle, their praise is not worth having even if we could get it. Help us to see that clearly. Help us to live life accordingly and to train our eyes evermore on our lovely Lord Jesus Christ who loved us and gave himself up for us. And may all of our life be a response of giving ourselves back to you in response to that greater gift that you first gave to us. We pray in Christ's name. Amen.

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