God’s Eyes on Me – Matthew 6:1-4 – Pastor Josh
The kind of charity Jesus calls us to, especially when giving to the poor, is giving done only for God's eyes and His alone. No witnesses, not even the slightest self-seeking glory, but service to people in need for God alone.
This actually brings us to our take home truth, man rewards the public showoff, but God rewards the humble giver.
So, in seeking to answer the sermon series question, “What does Jesus say about homelessness?” the main question we see answered from our passage today is, “How does Jesus call us to love and serve the poor?”
1. Jesus calls us to slow down and check our heart. (v.1) Before we ever seek to give to someone in need, before we ever try and lend a hand or provide a meal or anything, Jesus wants us to evaluate why we are seeking to do those good things in the first place. He wants us to go into these things with God honoring motives.
In this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls the crowd that He's preaching for to consider 3 basic yet fundamental applications of their faith in their day. Firstly, almsgiving. Secondly, prayer. Then thirdly, fasting. Almsgiving, prayer, and fasting, these were essential to the devout Jewish life where you could not call yourself a faithful Jew unless you were living out those three things to some extent. So, knowing this, Jesus is seeking to hit home on what many people weren’t quite fully grasping.
In many Bible translations, verse 1 acts as sort of a header or overall directive relating to the following sections on almsgiving, prayer and fasting. Being careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others doesn't only apply to our section here on giving to needy people but also when we pray and when we fast. None of these things we are to do with self-seeking glorification.
Notice how the first thing Jesus gives us here is a warning. Be careful. This was a command, an imperative. This wasn't Jesus asking but Jesus telling His followers that it was necessary to take caution when practicing their righteousness. But why? Because if we are seen practicing our righteousness, then there is no reward from God.
This is only one verse but there’s more to it than we might realize. Notice the topic or theme of being seen. Who is seen, who we are being seen by... this theme of “seeing” matters. Because depending on who our intended audience is, determines our rewards. When we give to the needy, when we pray, or when we fast, are we doing these things for an audience of everyone or an audience of one? Are we attempting to polish our public image or praise the Almighty Provider for His provisions?
Not only do we see this theme of “seeing” introduced but also the theme of “rewards.” Looking over verse 1 again, we see that the reason why Jesus is commanding people to be cautious who our intended audiences are for our righteous acts is that if we are not careful then there are no rewards from our Father in Heaven. We’ll see this idea again later on in this chapter in verse 19 when Jesus discusses where we’re laying up our treasures. Are we aiming for treasures from heaven or some other type of reward? I don’t want to get too into this idea now since this will be covered next Sunday but it’s enough to say for now that where we seek rewards and treasures from matters.
As Christians, the point of righteous acts is to serve God. If we're not aiming to serve God, we’re failing to honor Him and actually serve ourselves. Giving to the needy, prayer and fasting are still critical for the development of faith today because it's through these acts that God refines us, gathers, challenges and matures our devotion for Him. Thus, we must check our hearts and confess to God and one another.
Jesus calls us to slow down and check our hearts. But how else does God call us to love and serve the poor?
2. Jesus calls us not to be hypocrites in our giving. (v.2) The purpose of Christian giving to those in need is to be an act of compassion. If we do not give out of compassion but out of a desire for self-glory or anything else then we become hypocrites of what compassion is meant to be.
Verse 1 was generally a caution for how we should go about doing prayer, giving and fasting but here in verse 2 is where we start to find specific answers to how we should be giving to those in need. Again remember, Jesus’ issue is not with the doing of these things, but the manner and the motive of them.
Here in verse 2, we see the idea of giving to the needy. If you have an older translation of the Bible then maybe you see the word alms. Well, alms or almsgiving, along with prayer and fasting, was expected of all faithful believers. It was the practice of giving charitably either food or money to the poor and this is actually what the single word here in the original language means.
Jesus never asks the question should we give alms or should we fast or should we pray. No. All of these things were expected and presumed of the believer and still are today. Again, it's not a question of if but a question of how and with what motive.
It's unknown for sure whether or not people actually went around town sounding trumpets or not, from my studies I personally think Jesus is using an exaggerated illustration to get the point across. It's more likely that Jesus was trying to build on some irony here. Those who were wanting to be the most generous in His day and age were actually those wanting the most human glory. Again, this was hypocritical and stood against the type of giving that Christian alms should be.
It's interesting to learn too that the term hypocrite here actually came from Greek actors who put on different masks during a play to play different roles. So just like these Greek actors, Jesus is saying that these types of religious people, especially Pharisees and scribes, enact a sort of hypocrisy. They did outwardly righteous good, but inwardly their faith was corrupted. This eventually led to them getting praised by others but actually that led to them missing out on the rewards and treasures that God had in store. You can only imagine just how much greater heavenly rewards are than any earthly ones.
So, when loving and serving the poor, we must evaluate our motives in order to not be hypocrites in our giving them. And just as we discussed already in our first point, we must also check our hearts, to heed Jesus’ caution. So thirdly and lastly, how else is Jesus calling us to love and serve the poor?
3. Jesus calls us to give in humility. (vv.3-4) When we give to those in need, we shouldn’t make a spectacle out of it. In fact, it's the opposite. We are to give humbly just as Jesus has humbly given us Himself.
Giving so that our left hand doesn’t know what our right hand is doing… Well, that’s impossible! Maybe you can do it Jesus, you’re the Son of God, but we can’t!
I'm sure the point here is not to do the impossible but to give without self-seeking glory, that the only audience or person that we would want to see is God the Father Himself. This illustration may be embellished a bit but the point certainly comes across. It's not the secrecy in giving that is the point itself though that idea certainly helps us. It is the motives and the heart behind the giving that Jesus and all of God truly cares about. The same thing can be said about fasting and praying or anything that people can try and twist or distort to puff up their public image. Sometimes we present ourselves in a way as virtuous while in fact we mainly care about praise from other people. Or, we even simply try to keep the status quo and hold onto things we’ve always done just because.
We have been hammering this point home again and again and saying it in different ways but when we do give to those in need, we have to do it with humility and in humility. We cannot serve 2 masters, man and God, and still call ourselves Christians.
Alms is essential and was seen as essential and the manner in which they give alms is essential. Righteousness, true righteousness in humility and with seeking God's eyes alone is what we should aim for. Of course, there are going to be times where it's impossible to give without anybody seeing us. The point of the matter, or rather the heart of the matter is our heart in the matter.
Yet despite all of our shortfalls and our missed attempts at giving God the proper glory that He deserves alone, even though we fail to properly care for and serve the needy people in our communities, despite our shortcomings in seeing our homeless brothers and sisters as people and treating them as people instead of eyesores, and even though we so often operate out of convenience instead of conviction, Jesus sees our failed attempts to love Him and love others well and still willingly and happily chooses to love us. This is the gospel. We fail to measure up to God's holiness and He still loves us by giving us Himself. That while we were still sinners Jesus loved us. By sacrificing Himself and conquering death in love for us, Jesus has once and for all conquered our sins and failures to love and gives us new life.
This is how God calls us to love and serve the poor. With right minds and right hearts, we see our fellow people and give alms with all humility and without judgment. There is no upper class and lower class in the economy of Christ. Hopefully then as we see and realize more and more deeply our own need for Jesus, that we are all beggars for grace, we would be further moved to act in true righteousness, service and love. That we wouldn’t merely repost good causes atop the mountains of social media screaming, “You get a car! And you get a car!” but actually take the time to slow down, check our hearts and move forward in humility. For people may give us praise, but God rewards the humble giver.
Son Of God, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us, Good Good Father, Doxology