6 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
OK so it’s been awhile since we’ve visited the Sermon on the Mount. I personally found it very refreshing to be back. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
One of my main sources of teaching on the Sermon on the Mount series, one that I trust the most has been D Martyn Lloyd Jones. My point is, in his study he thought it prudent to do a quick overview of where we’ve come from (in the Sermon) in light of the where the entire chapter 6 will take us. I agree with this personally because I can’t jump into the minutia until I have a the big picture in view. There seems to be a lot of hopping around in chapter 5 but if you look at the outline and the progression there really isn’t. The previous chapter basically has 3 main divisions. The first division (vs. 3-12), the beatitudes explain the believer as he is. The second division (vs. 13-16) explains the believer as he is, reacting to the world and the world reacting to him. The last division (vs. 17-48) explains the relationship of the believer to the law of God. This sort of sets the stage for a believer understanding that their lives are to be lived as if they are in the presence of God…and why is that? Because though our Father is in Heaven, we are still living in the very presence of God. There is no clearer description of this that I know of than in John’s description of Jesus walking among the 7 churches in Revelation. There is some bad theology out there than if 2 or more are gathered…then God shows up. But Scripture is clear that if you are born again you have God’s Spirit dwelling in you (Eph 1:13). The Holy Spirit, Who is the 3rd person of the Trinity, whose sole purpose is to conform us to Christlikeness (Rom 8:29) is in you if you are born again. Living in light of this I believe is one of the most sanctifying understandings around. We live like somehow we can pull a fast one on God. With statistics like over 50% of pastors are addicted to pornography and divorces in the church are as or more significant than outside the church, reflect that I’m not convinced we are concerned about our sin in light of the fact that God still is.
Our view of Him being Holy is directly inversely proportional to our view of sin. Let me restate, “If you’re not so convinced God is holy, neither are you too concerned with your sin.” Make no mistake, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord”. God is holy and He is concerned about us reflecting Him well…that means we realize that we are sinful (as saved individuals) and repentance is the only response. “But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are his and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.’” (2Tim 2:19)
So if you are practicing your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them, don’t waste your time because your Father is ultimately the One who rewards you. And when you give to the needy, don’t even bother letting your left hand know what the right is doing, or consider praise from others. It is your Father who sees in secret is the One who will ultimately give the reward. This mentality is carried out through chapter 6 whether we are dealing with piety or the mundane.
I’ll close because this is getting rather lengthy but I’ve thought a lot about how do you not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. The litmus test I’ve developed is if my first response is to remember what I’ve done. Notice I said what I have done, not what Christ has done. If we forget what we have done then I think we can safely assume we are not keeping track, out left hand doesn’t know what our right is doing. But if I’m remembering it would seem I’m keeping track. Think about when God remembers our sins no more. Do you think God just forgets them? No, He chooses to not remember them, just like we must choose to fall more in love with Christ and then we will not be thinking about what we’ve done but what He’s done and what He’s doing through us. As Jones concludes with a similar thought, “Do things as you are moved by God and led by the Holy Spirit, and then forget all about them. How is this to be done? There is only one answer, and that is that we should have such a love for God that we have no time to think about ourselves.”1
1 D. Martyn Lloyd Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p 298