SOTM-Giving to the Poor

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” 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. “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4)

As we have been studying are way through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, we have completed chapter five of the Gospel of Matthew. The underlying truth of what Jesus is teaching His disciples is the nature of righteousness. The Beatitudes gave us an understanding of who is blessed. The person that is blessed is the one who knows his need for the righteousness of God. We see that a blessed person is the one who is willing to receive God into his life and allow Him to live through them, willing to let God show that person who they really are. Our spiritual poverty becomes real to us when we realize that everything in God’s creation cannot bring us eternal life. Eternal life is when we dwell in the House of the Lord forever.

Jesus used the example of the scribes and Pharisees to make a very strong point. They were the religious elite of the day and the people looked up to their piety and strict adherence to the law. Jesus taught that righteousness of the one who would enter into the Kingdom must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. The only way to receive perfect righteousness is to receive Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. God’s will for us to do righteous things is deeper in that we are to be righteous from the inside to the out. Many a righteous living soul desires to see all of God’s creation set right and God intends to bring that into reality. This was God’s will to do through His Son Jesus who will take the fallen of humanity and provide a way to fulfill the will of His Father God to make all things right. Through our spiritual poverty and our longing for righteousness Jesus will share His righteousness which we partially have now and will at that great day become totally transformed by the power of the Spirit into a complete Christ likeness.

Throughout chapter five we were given examples by our Lord of the righteousness that is needed which exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. While here in this world we are growing in a righteous relationship with God the Father through His Son Jesus. As a result this righteous relationship with our heavenly Father spills over into our relationships with other people. God loves us while we are yet sinners and we learn to love others regardless of how they may treat us. Jesus finishes the first section by teaching us that God’s will is that we become perfect. That God will not be satisfied until we are made whole and complete in Him. That God will love us into that perfection.

In Chapter 6 Jesus focuses on our relationship with the Father. Jesus talks about our Piety. Piety is that way we personally practice our faith. There are three classifications to our religious acts, giving, prayer, and fasting or denying self.

The government of that day offered minute assistance to the poor and needy. It was the practice of the Jews to fill the void and help those who were less fortunate. As Christians we are to provide assistance to the needy as we read, “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:37-40) Jesus was teaching that we are not to put on a public display of our help to the poor that we may receive recognition and glory from others.

The problem that Jesus was identifying was our motive. Why would we give to the less fortunate then ourselves? People do not like to give if there is no positive return for their actions. If they give now they want to see an affirming response to that action now. Such was the people of the day in that they gave openly in public so others could see their good works. Their motive was for self-recognition.

Jesus does not teach that seeking recognition is a bad thing that they should work to rid themselves of. The point that Jesus is making is that they are seeking recognition and reward from the wrong place. The motivation that Jesus gives us for privet giving is in these words, “Your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” It is not that a reward for our giving is wrong but that we should seek our reward from the One who can truly reward us.

God is all knowing and He knows what His people are doing as well as the unrighteous. God is not an absent deity or a distant Heavenly Father, God is close to His Children and He cares about all that we do. “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:13)

Is God really interested in rewarding us for the good work we do? Sometimes it may seem that God is not. We go about giving to others and find that we are no better off for it. But are we really aware of the blessings of the day? Each one of us are blessed each day in ways that we are not fully aware of. Others want God to operate in their time when it would be better if they would be patient and wait upon the Lord to act. We should not trade our birthright as Esau for a bowl of soup. “That there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.” (Hebrews 12:16) God gives His blessing upon us in His time, which is the perfect time for us to receive it.

The essential motivation that Jesus was teaching is faith. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) There is nothing that is lost to God. He sees every act from the smallest to the greatest that people do. Jesus is telling us that even as we give to others we are giving to God the Father.

Another thing to look at is that God sees in secret. Could this mean that when we give in public for the recognition of men that God does not see it? Perhaps, when our giving is to draw attention unto ourselves then our only reward is that which those who recognize us give. That would be a small pittance to the riches of His glory. “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure–pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” (Luke 6:38)

Only God our Father can respond to our giving in an appropriate way to our actions. If our giving is viewed by God as giving unto Him, then we are participating in God’s giving to His creation. The Jews gave to the less fortunate because it was the command of God. “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” (1 Timothy 6:18-19) God has a greater concern for the poor, a desire that we as His children should share in. As His children we are receivers of His all sufficient grace and through Him we are given a purpose for our life. As we give we are fulfilling His provision to others and we are expressing our faith that God will provide for our needs.

If we grab ahold of this truth, then we have freedom to give freely and joyfully. We do not have a concern for who might see our good deeds because we know that God knows and will reward our actions. God is the audience that we can always play for and be appreciated by.

God is not distant and slow to pay attention to us. He is present, near, and ready to recognize and encourage any tiny step in His direction. With a heavenly Father like this, we are free to enjoy giving to others with a freedom and an abandon, because we know our Father receives it all and gives us the response we so long for. He is willing to have our actions count and be worthy of reward from Him. I have to wonder when I see this why I ever settle for something so much less. On that glorious day we shall all be at the Judgment Seat of Christ where we will justly rewarded us for all that we have done. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, May 20, 2016

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