Posts Tagged 'motives'

Living in the Kingdom, Now: Motives


Matthew 6

Matthew 5 deals with the righteousness Christians ought to possess and chapter 6 deals with how Christians ought to practice that righteousness.  It all boils down to motive, and verse 1 establishes this:

“Take care! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, for then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.”  (TLB)

The key here is the phrase “to be admired.”  It’s not that Christians are to hide their good deeds because, in fact, the exact opposite is what Jesus taught in 5:15, 16—

“Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all to see, so that they will praise your heavenly Father.”  (TLB)

What Jesus is dealing with here is the motive behind doing those good deeds.  In performing good deeds that are “out in the open,” our motive ought to be the glorification of God, not ourselves.

1.  God’s rewards, Matthew 6:1—8; 16—18

Righteous acts, verses 1—4

A common teaching in Jesus’ day was that alms-giving itself earned points with God.  From the apocryphal book of Tobit comes this teaching:

Do the good, and evil shall not find you. Better is prayer with truth, and alms with righteousness than riches with unrighteousness; it is better to give alms than to lay up gold: alms-giving doth deliver from death, and it purges away all sin.  They that do alms shall be fed with life…  (Tobit 12:8, 9)

But Jesus didn’t teach that.  He simply assumed His followers would give and be generous.  But in giving, they were not to give like the Pharisees, who made giving offerings a big deal and announced their giving with great fanfare.

But when you do a kindness to someone, do it secretly—don’t tell your left hand what your right hand is doing.  And your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you.   (Matthew 6:3, 4  TLB)

This advice from Jesus needs to read correctly.  He is exaggerating to get the point across.  He already established that good deeds should be done for others to see so that God would be glorified.  The sense of these two verses is that a Christian should never seek the praise of others in their generous acts; they should be generous and give regardless of who sees or doesn’t see.  The point:  God sees and He will reward your generous giving accordingly.

Prayer, verses 5—8

Ostentatious praying—not public praying—is something to be avoided.  Pharisees loved to shout out their prayers in public to get noticed.  The importance of private prayer is what Jesus is stressing here.  It doesn’t matter where or when or even how a Christian prays, only that he does so with a sincere heart.

Jesus is certainly not prohibiting praying in public; pastors and worship leaders do this every Sunday.   It’s the motive; why are you praying?  Are you praying in public as an act of worship and leadership?  Or are you praying in public to get noticed?  Are you praying in private so that you can bear your heart before God and touch His?  Or are you praying in private to get something out of Him?  It’s your motive that counts.  Prayer in important; it’s much too important to waste time on merely using dusty, old prayers others have prayed.

Don’t recite the same prayer over and over as the heathen do, who think prayers are answered only by repeating them again and again. Remember, your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!   (Matthew 6:7, 8  TLB)

Pray and understand that you are praying to a Person who knows you  better than anybody else and He knows precisely what you need.

Fasting, verses 16—18

Fasting can be a wonderful spiritual exercise for Christians to engage in, but only if it is done properly.  The Pharisees fasted incorrectly—they made a big deal about it and made sure other people knew what they were doing.  Jesus, though, taught that if a Christian is going to fast, he should do so in way that draws no attention to himself.  Pink makes this sharp observation on the topic of fasting:

When the heart and mind are deeply exercised upon a serious subject, especially one of a solemn or sorrowful kind, there is a disinclination for the partaking of food, and the abstinence therefrom is a natural expression of our unworthiness, of our sense of the comparative worthlessness of earthly things, and of our desire to fix our attention on things above.

In other words, when a Christian fasts, he should do so in a serious, concentrated manner.  If he’s not going to eat, he should pray.  Not eating has no merit at all! 

The Pharisees were doing the right things in the wrong ways because their motives were skewed, and because their motives were completely wrong, they forfeited any eternal reward.  Jesus assured Christians that if they did what the Pharisees did, but it correctly with the right motives, God would reward them accordingly.

2.  No  materialism, Matthew 6:19—24

Treasures in heaven, verses 19—21

If your profits are in heaven, your heart will be there too.  (Matthew 6:21  TLB)

Jesus never teaches that money is bad or evil or that it can never be used to further God’s Kingdom.  In fact, the opposite is true.  But what Jesus is getting at simply this:  Christians should not be obsessed with accumulating things on earth that deteriorate and waste away with the passing of time.  Is there anything wrong with worldly wealth?  Not at all!  But your motivation in the accumulation of wealth is what’s at issue here.  If you are hoping your “stuff” will make you happy or somehow provide you with security, then your motives are wrong.  Instead, you should be investing in the Kingdom; you shouldn’t keep all your wealth to yourself but be willing to let some of it go for the sake of service to God.  When this is your attitude about your wealth—that you are willing to give some of it up—it comes back to you. 

Light, verses 22, 23

If your eye is pure, there will be sunshine in your soul.  But if your eye is clouded with evil thoughts and desires, you are in deep spiritual darkness. And oh, how deep that darkness can be!

The point of these verses is simply this:  A true believer must be single in his purpose.  He must strive to make sure his motive or motives are pure.

Masters, verse 24

You cannot serve two masters: God and money. For you will hate one and love the other, or else the other way around.   (TLB)

Our God demands complete loyalty.  If you are going to call yourself a Christian; if you are follower of Jesus Christ, then you must be absolutely devoted to Him.  A true believer does not have a divided heart or divided loyalties.  A true believer cannot split his time between longing for God and longing for the things of this world.

The main emphases of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6 up to this point are:

·         simplicity

·         sincerity

·         singleness

These form the foundation of discipleship.  Serving the Lord shouldn’t be complicated because it is simple by God’s design.  Everything we do for the Lord  in terms of both our worship and service, should be done with sincerity.  Finally, we should stay focused on the Lord as we serve Him.

3.  Priority, Matthew 6:25—34

Anxious,  verses 25—29

Should a Christian be nervous or anxious about the future?  According to Jesus, NEVER!  Christians whose focus is on the things of this world will always be worrying about them.  Christians who worry about being poor will never have enough money.  Christians who worry about their health will always be sick.  Christians who worry about being lonely will never have enough good friends.  Job discovered this to be true:

For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me.  (Job 3:35  NKJV)

Jesus’ advice focuses on our priorities.  Our lives are more than what we do and what we have in the here-and-now.  It is spiritual, too.  And Christians should never neglect the spiritual side.

Faithfulness, verse 30

And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you, O men of little faith?

Jesus wants His followers to understand that the God who looks after nature is more than capable of looking after them, too.  If God  provides for the short-lived grass, He will surely provide for His chidren, who will live forever. 

It’s God’s faithfulness in view here.  God faithfully cares for His creation, and that includes YOU!  Unfortunately, as faithful as God is, we are just as faithless sometimes.  We, like the disciples, allow ourselves to get burdened down with the cares of today, resulting in a lack of faith.  Jesus’ word to us is to just trust God!  Lee Roberson comments:

Faith is made up of belief and trust.  Many people believe God, but they do not trust themselves into His keeping and care; consequently, they are filled with worry and fear.

God knows, verses 31, 32

“So don’t worry at all about having enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them…”  (TLB)

Worry and pride and closely related and sometimes inseparable.  Jesus sums up His admonition on not being anxious by giving two reasons for not being that way:  (1)  Don’t worry because the heathen worry.  There is NO merit in worrying.  Some Christians feel guilty if they are not worrying about things!  Talk about wrong-headed thinking.  Unbelievers worry; Christians aren’t supposed to.  In other words, being anxious is sinful behavior.  (2)  Don’t worry because God has His eyes on you.  God knows what you need; don’t sweat it.   Trust that the Lord will provided what you need when you need it.

This, of course, takes practice.  But it’s how Jesus wants us to live.

The Kingdom of God, verses 33, 34

…and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to. “So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.”

Don’t let worry take root in your head, Jesus says.  It’s a battle that takes place between your ears, but it is a battle that can be won.  God takes care of all the little things; what makes any of us think He is incapable of taking care of us?  God isn’t the problem, we are.  We MUST learn how to let go of our lives and learn how to place them in God’s hands.  We need to learn how to put God FIRST in our lives.  Worrying about tomorrow is a most selfish way to live.  It’s wrong, and it’s sinful.  Not only that, being anxious is just dumb.  Remember the old saw:

Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.

If we put God first, He will make sure ALL of our needs—and then some—will be met.  You cannot live tomorrow today.  You cannot act like God.  Stop that destructive behavior, Jesus says, and learn to have faith in God’s grace for each day.

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