SECRET RELIGION – CHARITY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: This morning we begin a 3-part series through the Sermon on the Mount called “SECRET RELIGION.” Jesus calls us to be the Salt and the Light in this world but He wants us to do good secretly, covertly, privately, off the record.
Matthew 6 1 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”
Overall Background: The passage we just read marks a shift in Jesus’ focus in the Sermon on the Mount. In this new section Jesus turns His attention towards hypocrites and their hypocrisy. In fact, 3 times He uses the term “hypocrites” to describe people who do the right thing but for the wrong reasons. They give charity, they pray, and they fast but they do it for show. Jesus warns His listeners that although they need to do those things, they better do them with the right motives. What happens to people who serve God for popularity? 3 times we hear the phrase – “Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” In other words, God will reward people for their good deeds but not if they’ve already earned their rewards through self-adulation or public praise. If you go around patting your back or looking for praise, you have your reward. God has nothing for you.
Here’s the point – Jesus not only came to raise the bar of righteousness but He also came to raise the standard of evaluation. Meaning: it’s not just “what more you do for God?” but also “why do you do what more you do for God?” Listen carefully – Christian life is more than a bigger checklist. It’s also a deeper heart check.
Question: Why do you serve God? Why do you want to help people? What is your motive? If you’re motives are to impress others, you are cutting into your own reward. There’s no eternal glory for you. Are you saved? If not, there are no rewards for you.
2 things we will learn about Secret Religion and Charity:
I. GOD COMMANDS US TO SHOW CHARITY.
2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed,
Background: The first thing to remember is that Jesus said “when” and not “if.” It means Jesus assumed that His listeners would practice charity. Charity/helping the poor was a very important part of Jewish social life. Listen to the following passages from the Old Testament. They are long but worth hearing, especially in our generation:
Deuteronomy 15 7 “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs. 9 Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, “The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,’ and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the LORD against you, and it become sin among you. 10 You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, (Meaning: it’s not just the content but also the intent.) because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand. 11 For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, “You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’
If that wasn’t enough, listen to Deuteronomy 24 19 “When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. (That’s what Boaz did for Ruth.) 20 When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. 21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. 22 And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this thing. Charity is not optional. It is mandatory.
Here’s more: Jesus did not lower this standard. In fact, He raised it. If you remember when the rich young ruler came to Him asking how to attain eternal life. First, Jesus questioned if he had kept all the commandments. When he replied yes, listen to what Jesus said to him in Matthew 19:21 “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But the young man went away sorrowful because he had great possessions.
Unfortunately, in our country, the church forgot charity and the government had to take it up. Now, people complain when they see someone with EBT cards and food stamps. We fuss when we see people waiting for the check. This wouldn’t have been a problem if that church had studied her Bible and put it to practice!
Application: What do you think about charity? How do you respond when you see those who are less fortunate? Sure – you have to be careful but how do you respond when there’s a legitimate need? Are you generous or are you stingy? Do you walk around with a tunnel vision, only caring for you and yours or do you care for others?
II. PRIDE CAUSES US TO LOSE OUR REWARDS.
2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men.
Background: Just when we think Jesus would give us some tips on how to recognize who really needs help and how to give selectively or how God promises to bless us when we give generously, He lays down a condition – “do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men.” Meaning: Don’t advertise your charity for complements. God wants to acknowledge our giving. He wants to record it. He wants to reward us for being generous. But, when people say – “Yes – I want God’s blessing but I also want people’s praise.” That’s when God says – “I’m out.”
Why do people do that? It’s more than just a desire to be acknowledged. It is PRIDE. This week I was reading through C.S. Lewis’s classic work “Mere Christianity.” Amazingly, as I was prepping for this message, I happened to be reading his chapter titled, “The Great Sin” on Pride. I want to read a few quotes from this book. He begins with this remark – “There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves…There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.” Then Lewis goes to the root of pride – “Pride is essentially competitive…Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. (Lewis explains that other sins like anger, unforgiveness, adultery, stealing are nothing like pride.) Then he says – “It is a terrible thing that the worst of all vices can smuggle itself into the very center of our religious life…The other, and less bad, vices come from the devil working on us through our animal nature. But this (pride) does not come through our animal nature at all. It comes directly from Hell.” (By the way, it’s pride that got the Devil kicked out.)
How does all this connect with this message on “Secret Religion?” Why do people blow the trumpet when they give? Because they are announcing that they are so much more generous and benevolent and charitable than the other person. Check out how much I am giving more than the last guy. Now, I know someone is bound to say – “Yeah…I know so and so rich person gives so much. It’s all pride. They just want to prove that they are so much better and wealthier than the rest of us.” Here’s what I have found, in my experience – Usually, it’s not the rich who announce how much they are giving but the “not so rich.” It’s usually those who don’t have much who constantly make it a point to talk about how unselfish they were when they saw that man on the street and they bought him a meal or that homeless woman going through the trash dump and they gave her a hug and took her to the shelter. What these people are really saying is – “I am so much better than the rich man who drove by and didn’t give anything.” Guess what – you just got bit by the Pride bug! Because you don’t know if the rich man just gave away his millions to build that homeless shelter! Pride is not based on the content of our wallets. It’s based on the condition of our hearts.
Before you run out saying – “That’s right. I don’t care about anyone’s opinion. I am not doing it for them. I don’t need their praise.” Listen to what C.S. Lewis says – “The real…diabolical Pride comes when you look down on others so much that you do not care what they think of you…the Proud man…says ‘Why should I care for the applause of the rabble as if their opinion were worth anything?…All I have done has been to satisfy my own ideals…the traditions of my family…because I’m That Kind of Chap (Guy)…the devil loves ‘curing’ a small fault by giving you a great one. We must never try to be vain, but we must never call in our Pride to cure our vanity…” WOW! Isn’t Pride deceptive?
But listen – 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; Don’t misunderstand this analogy. It does not mean that this humble charitable person is flippant and careless, just dropping money everywhere. There’s something very deep in the analogy. Once again, back to C.S. Lewis – “Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort…who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap (guy) who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility; he will not be thinking about himself at all.” In other words, they are the type of person whose – “left hand does not know what their right hand is doing.”
What’s the result? 4 “…and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”
There’s only one person who lived this perfectly, 100% – Jesus Christ. Listen to John 5 41 “I do not receive honor from men. 42 But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. 44 How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?”
Secret Religion is when you neither look for nor look down on the approval of others but you constantly look to God. Your desire is to do all things to please God.
What will happen in this world if we begin to give charity and do it for the right reasons? What will happen if we stop looking for or looking down on the approval of others but only look for the approval of God? What will happen if we start practicing “Secret Religion?” Only the Holy Spirit can create this spirit in us. Are you saved?