Matthew R. Perry

Posts Tagged ‘Giving’

That’s a “When” When It Comes To Giving (Matthew 6:1-4)

In Church Life, Sermons on September 14, 2008 at 2:20 pm

When I was young, I would watch or be familiar with shows on TV that had some pretty interesting characters. Mike Brady from the Brady Bunch, Gilligan from Gilligan’s Island, Archie Bunker from All in the Family, Hawkeye Pierce from MASH. As a kid, I could never separate the actor from the person in real life. And often times, these actors were quite different from the characters they portrayed.

While this may throw us a bit, what is even more concerning is when someone who portrays a believer and a follower of Christ is nothing like the character he or she portrays.

As we get into Matthew 6, we find Jesus addressing three particular areas of our Christian devotional life: giving to the needy (Matthew 6:2-4), praying (Matthew 6:5-15), and fasting (Matthew 6:16-18). But all of these issues come from what Jesus says in Matthew 6:1, “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.” While some versions say for us to beware of giving alms, the oldest and best manuscripts state that Jesus is merely speaking in general of appearing righteous before men in order to receive praise from men.

Matthew 5 dealt with the inner moral requirements found in the heart. Chapter six is now dealing with the outward religious requirements and the motives behind those religious works. We find ourselves wanting the approval of those who are just like us. Jesus moves back to Matthew 5:19-20:

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. [20] For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

And now we are getting to the nuts and bolts of our religious rituals. Are we doing them to help and grow, or are we doing them so we can be seen helping, giving, and fasting? Dan Doriani in his commentary asks the appropriate question: are we desiring to be holy, or are we driving toward hypocrisy?

Let’s look at Matthew 6:2-4:

1. When you give, what reason do you have?

As we mentioned last week, there are numerous places to give: humanitarian efforts, missions work, charities, churches, television ministries, campus ministries, churches—there is no end. Each of these makes often legitimate cases for your giving. What makes you give to them?

Sadly, many give for what they can get out of it. When I worked in college at a local grocer, I would find myself witnessing to a lot of guys I went to high school with. One told me that he was up late at night going through some particular issue, when a TV minister put his hand toward the TV and said, “I sense someone is out there with a ______________ problem. Send $100 to our ministry and I will send you an anointed prayer towel. Just pray with this in hand, and God will hear and answer.” Sometimes we give thinking that by giving, God will materially bless us.

Yet, some of us are moved by pictures of needy children all over the world and give to these organizations. That’s a good sign. Jesus said, “When you give to the needy.” The operative word is needy. In fact, when the early church began, this area of giving and helping those in need was a very distinguishing mark for Christians. James Montgomery Boice noted

Before Christ’s time there were no homes for the sick or poor, no orphanages. There was a world of toil and poverty, of the exposure of unwanted children, of slavery, of great hunger side by side with great affluence, and appalling indifference. After Christ came there was an instant and sacrifical love of the believers for each other. This was followed by care for the poor, hospitals, reform laws in the status of women, the establishing of change in labor laws, the abolition of slavery, and other things.

Understand that giving is not optional, but it is a sign of obedience—especially if it is for the right reason.

What kind of heart do we have when we give? Part of being God’s covenant people is that we give to the needy. As Eric read earlier from Deuteronomy 15, God commanded and expected his people to help their poor and needy brother. Why? Remember that Deuteronomy is all about Moses giving his last marching orders to the people of Israel before they entered into the Promised Land. But where did they come from? From being enslaved and mistreated in Egypt. God delivered them from their slavery and would always remind them of their former condition.

While the Jews of Jesus’ time did give, it was more of a ritual and very external. Yet, we must realize that giving must not be a ritual, but a matter of a relationship. You see, when we give, we really give unto the Lord. Remember Malachi 3:6-10:

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. [7] From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ [8] Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. [9] You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. [10] Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

Remember this: when we do not give, we are robbing Him. Yes, we are giving to the needy, but remember there is a spiritual need as well, and God expects his people to give to the storehouse of the local church to which they belong so that physical and spiritual needs may be met.

2. When you give, what reward do you seek?

Rewards. Many people have this conversation about rewards. Will Billy Graham have more rewards in heaven than a regular Christian? Some ask these with their main concern being what kind of ‘stuff’ will we have in heaven.

Yet, I believe this is the wrong angle to take. Heaven is not earth. Beulah Land is not America. Getting to heaven is not the equivalent of obtaining the American Dream where we have everything we want and more. We think about our life and what blessings God can give us both now and in the by-and-by.

Yet, Jesus comes along and in a span of six verses mentions the word ‘reward’ four times. Go back and look at Matthew 5:46-47:

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? [47] And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

Notice in Matthew 6:2

“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.

Both of these verses deal with a false desire for a false reward. The great snare for many was to give for the praise of men. Those in Jesus’ times were particularly snared because the model being presented by the religious leaders was one of drawing great attention to oneself. When the trumpet sounded from the Temple for a time of giving, the Pharisee would drop what he is doing and rush toward the Temple, giving a great sign to everyone that he was spiritual—he’s going to the Temple to give! But it went even further.

The scribes and the Pharisees even believed that the more one gave, the more sin was forgiven. In one of their writings, we read, “As water will quench a flaming fire, so charity will atone for sin” (The Wisdom of Sirach 3:30). The Pharisees, in a way, felt they could buy their way to heaven with the amount of money they gave to the needy. But ultimately, what they wanted was recognition from men. And since that’s what they desired, that is just the reward they received—but no more!

The word Jesus uses is the word ‘hypocrites’ – as the hypocrites do in the synagogue and in the streets. A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be something he is not, much like the actor in a play.

Do we do this? Ask yourselves these questions:

• Will we only give to the needy if someone is around to see us give it?
• Will we give to the church, but only if our name is on a plaque by a window or a nameplate in book or Bible?
• Do you find yourselves “accidentally” bringing up how much you give?
• Do you give, but only if there is no monetary sacrifice, but if there is, you find excuses not to give? In other words, will you only give when you are “financially settled?”
• Sometimes we just give with the expectation of gratitude to the one to whom we give.
• Sometimes, people will only give if things are going well at church, but will withhold their giving if things are not—using it as leverage for implementing change they want to see.

What reward do we seek? The question is, at this point, what reward should we seek? Jesus answers this in Matthew 6:3-4:

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

This is an interesting picture. Jesus here is saying, “Be discreet—very discreet.” MacArthur says, “The most satisfying giving, and the giving that God blesses, is that which is done and forgotten.” When our right hand gives, we should be discreet even from our left hand, not to mention other people.

So are we to give in secret? Does this mean that every good work we do should be done in secret so no one else knows about it? What about what Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” So is Jesus saying in one place that people need to “see your good works” and in other place do like your Christian life and duty out in secret? No, the similarity still stands: what is the end result of your good works, to receive praise from men or from God? Wherever you seek praise from, from that same place your reward will come as well.

The Pentagon of Christianity: The Defense Department For Our Souls

In Church Life, Sermons on September 8, 2008 at 12:33 pm

On September 11, 2001, that tragic day in our recent history, four planes were hijacked, three of which flew into very prominent buildings. Two of those buildings were the Twin Towers in New York. What may have been forgotten was the third building: the Pentagon. This was no accident on the part of the terrorists: for the Pentagon serves as our country’s Department of Defense.

Some have asked if there is any symbolic significance to a five-sided building. The answer is, not really. When the building was originally constructed, it was on a piece of property that went up against a highway and a bridge that were at a 108-degree angle, which forced them to build it with five sides instead of four.

What we Christians must do is realize that there exists a Department of Defense for our Christian life God constructed in His Word. This defense helps protect the borders of our hearts from the enemies of the world, the flesh, and the devil. These are the true enemies of the state, which is the Kingdom of God.

As we close out this series, it would benefit us to see what the five sides of this Pentagon.

1. Attend faithfully.

Attending times of corporate worship at your local church is crucial for maintaining a good defense system. We have already seen what Hebrews 10:23-25 says about not neglecting to meet together but to encourage one another. In Acts 2:42-44, Luke records the activities of the fledgling church:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common.

While it would be easy to focus on the particulars of what they did: listening to the teaching, fellowship, prayers, God’s power on the move, and genuine compassion for one another. And if you recall back in April, I passed out a list of what our worship services consist of, and the biblical basis behind those elements we have.

But the key word here is “And they devoted themselves.” It is difficult to be devoted to something or someone when you are chronically absent from that thing or person! How can someone be devoted to their spouse, their children, their work, their hobbies if there is not a decided diligence to spend time with those things?

2. Pray continually.

This coming Wednesday, we will have a special prayer meeting for lost unbelievers called “With One Voice” and in October, we will spend all four weeks looking at the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-15. But it’s not enough for us to think highly of prayer, to simply read about prayer, or even to preach about prayer.

James Montgomery in 1818 penned a hymn about prayer. My favorite verse is the sixth one which says, “Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath, the Christian’s native air.” We should feel at home with prayer as we do with breathing—it’s just part and parcel of the holy oxygen we need. So when Paul says, “Pray without ceasing” (2 Thessalonians 5:17), “Continue steadfastly in prayer” (Colossians 4:2), and to “Pray at all times in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18), what does he mean?

He means that we are to live in constant communion and sensitivity to God’s Spirit at work in our lives. While you may not continually stay having your eyes closed or spend your entire day in your prayer closet, you as Christians have the Holy Spirit who gives us a direct connection and communion. In his wonderful little book entitled “Prayer,” John R. Rice starts off his book with this verse from Psalm 65:2: “O you who hears prayer, to you shall all flesh come.” He then said simply, “It is God’s nature to hear and answer prayer.” As a Christian, we have that connection.

3. Give graciously.

Here is another that we have spent some time on over the last few months, but one more word concerning this will do us well. This past Wednesday, we looked at Genesis 4 with the issue of Cain and Abel. We know how this relationship turned out, usually summed up with three words: “Cain killed Abel.” But it would be helpful to see where all this came from. In reading Genesis 4:1-7

In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

Did you notice that Cain was ultimately angry not at Abel, but at God! But it all stemmed from his lack of willingness to give and offer rightly. Abel gave the firstfruits (or, as many say, “Off the top!”). He gave God the choicest of offerings. Cain just gave the leftovers. Paul echoes this in 2 Cor. 9:6-7:

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

We can round up a number of reasons for not giving: economy, bills and other debts. Some have hobbies and fetishes that take up a great amount of money. I one time belonged to a CD club while I was in college and seminary (before I got married). Before I knew it, I catalogued 200+ CDs … at $12-15 a pop. And I honestly wondered where my money was going. It was going to my idol!

But what we give to God and how we give to Him is a direct reflection of what we think of Him and what His Son accomplished. We tie up our money in other things necessary and unnecessary—yet so many who claim they are Christians give so little. Are you sowing so little because you think so little of what he gave to you?

4. Study diligently.

If we long to take God seriously and to build a great defense system for our souls, we cannot avoid this portion: you must study God’s Word diligently. I believe many of us see the necessity for this, but sadly many do not for whatever reason.

· Some say it is irrelevant: we have jobs to work, classes to attend, bills to pay, children to raise—this old Book doesn’t speak to today. It’s irrelevant, they say.

· Some say it makes no sense and they don’t know how to go to it.

· Some say, “I’m not seminary-trained, I’m just a lay-person.”

· Some say, “I just don’t have time.”

· Some say, “I have some doubts as to whether it’s really reliable.”

· Some say, “It’s just plain boring.”

This is not just those who are outside of Christ who say this—these are the opinions and feelings of many Christians as well! Yet, what made David say in Psalm 119:15-16, “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.” What made Paul say in 2 Tim. 2:15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” What made Paul, who was in jail, alone, desolate, and understanding that death awaited, ask Timothy to bring “the books and above all the parchments” so he could continue his study?

For one, Paul wanted to know Him. Paul said in Philip. 3:10-12 that he desired to “know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” He wanted to know his splendor, his majesty, hiw power, but also his attributes. He wanted to identify with Christ. Ezra the priest echoes this: “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”

Secondly, Paul wanted to grow in Him. Paul in this very familiar verse found in 2 Tim. 3:16-17, says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Paul wanted to grow and that is only found through growing in God’s Word. Peter was the same: 1 Peter 2:2-3 says, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

Lastly, Paul wanted to serve Him. We find out what God has in mind as far as service to Him, don’t we? Mark 10:42-45 says:

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. [43] But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, [44] and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. [45] For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

5. Serve willingly.

Psalm 100:1-5

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

[2] Serve the Lord with gladness!

Come into his presence with singing!

[3] Know that the Lord, he is God!

It is he who made us, and we are his;

we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

[4] Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

and his courts with praise!

Give thanks to him; bless his name!

[5] For the Lord is good;

his steadfast love endures forever,

and his faithfulness to all generations.

Did you notice verse 2? Serve the Lord with gladness. These two cannot be disconnected. We cannot serve or worship the Lord simply out of a sense of duty! We must serve him with gladness! Why? Because it all comes down to the gospel. Huh? Yes! When we consider how Christ came to serve humanity through his death on the cross, we gladly serve our Savior and Lord who served us so!

Service entails action. Look at this Psalm again. Look at all the commands: make a joyful noise, serve the Lord, Know that the Lord, he is God, enter, give, bless! Service entails an action propelled by the love and longing for Christ!

In what ways will you serve? Some of you may be longing to serve, but do not know how. To you, I suggest that you let me know and we can talk about what gifts and talents God has given to you. Yet, some of you know there is a place where you need to serve. You see the choir sing and you know that God is calling you there. Consider what is stopping you. Some of you have a longing to serve with our children. Consider what is stopping you! Would it be that Christ is stopping you? Or Satan? Or self?

You say, “Well, Bro. Matt, God has been leading me to start something up, but it’s not on the committees lists, choir, children, or anything along that line.” Come talk to me—God has not called us to bow the knee to committees, but to the leading of His Spirit!

So let’s come to church, pray, give, study, and serve the Lord out of a grateful heart for all He has accomplished through Christ.