Sermon: How to Invest in God’s Program
Scripture: Matthew 6:1-4
In this week’s lessons, we learn about the principle of giving, and the blessings that come from the Lord upon both the giver and the recipient.
Theme: A Matter of the Heart
Yesterday, we concluded by saying that the charity of the early Church was a new and amazing thing to its contemporaries.
There is one apparent exception to this truth, however, but upon a close examination it is seen to be not really such an exception as it seems. In Judaism, nurtured as it was on the Old Testament Scriptures, there was a strong concern for charity, particularly the giving of alms. The Old Testament taught this duty. Proverbs 19:17 says, “He that pitieth the poor lendeth to the LORD, and he will give him back again.” Proverbs 29:7 says, “The righteous considereth the cause of the poor.” Psalm 41:1 pronounces a blessing upon the one who does so, saying, “Blessed is he that considereth the poor.” The rabbis even amplified upon this teaching, adding that “alms-giving delivers from death and will purge away all sins” (Tobit 12:9).
The problem, however, was that charity in Judaism, like other aspects of morality, was largely external. And although it was far more common than in the cultures of Greece or Rome, it was performed, nevertheless, with similar motives. Only with the coming of Jesus Christ did motives change. Only in the power of His Spirit did charity flow from a divine love welling up internally.
Today we come to a series of verses in which this new spirit of charity is revealed for the first time. Because of its historic significance I should like to proceed from these verses to consider the subject in the light of the New Testament generally. In the opening verses of Matthew 6 Jesus said, “Take heed that ye do not your alms [i.e., your good deeds] before men, to be seen by them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father, who is in heaven. Therefore, when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth, that thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (Matt. 6:1-4).
The phrase “let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth” points to an absence of ostentation, not only before men, but also before the giver himself. It is indicative of a charity inspired by the presence of Christ in the heart. In that spirit men and women have given ever since, even to their own hurt and without any prospect of thanks or appreciation.
The first obvious principle of these verses is that true charity must come forth out of a life that has first been surrendered to God. For they teach clearly that we are to give for His approval and before Him.
Have you ever noticed that this is what made the Philippian Christians such outstanding examples of giving? It was, according to Paul’s judgment. The Philippians had learned to give, first because of their love for Paul, who was their father in the faith. When he had left them after his first visit to Philippi to go on to Thessalonica, they soon sent messengers to find out how he was doing. When word came back that he was in financial need they took up a collection and sent it to him. Later, when they heard that the need continued, they did the same thing again. Paul refers to this in his letter to them saying, “For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity” (Phil. 4:16). And, of course, they continued to do this throughout his life, sending to him even at the last when he was a prisoner in Rome.
From our passage, what are we to guard against when doing good deeds for others? Why is this important?
What is the first principle of giving? What did this look like in the Philippian church?
Application: Is your church involved in congregation-wide efforts to meet material needs within your church and your surrounding community?
Key Point: The first obvious principle of these verses is that true charity must come forth out of a life that has first been surrendered to God. For they teach clearly that we are to give for His approval and before Him.