April 18, 2010
The first point of Spurgeon's Catechism reads:
Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.
1 Co 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Ps 73:25, 26, Whom have I in heaven [but thee]? and [there is] none upon earth [that] I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: [but] God [is] the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
The Lord's sermon on the mount covers 3 chapters of Matthew, 5, 6 & 7, and chapter 6 is the center of the Lord's sermon. Mat 6 presents man's obligation to bring glory to God first of all, and it explains the actions man must do to bring glory to God, 5:16. Matthew Chapter 6 sums up Man's chief end and how man accomplish that end in three basic religious actions: giving of alms, prayer and fasting.
We must consider the Lord's Sermon on the Mount as one message, not as several small ones spliced together; therefore, we must take this section, as we must the rest, in the context of the whole. It would be as wrong to divide His Sermon up as it would be to divide up a message from the pulpit.
6:33 seems to sum up the total duty of man: bring glory to God and advance His kingdom on earth, which is Ecclesiastes 13:13 ¶ Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
The whole of Scripture tells man how to go about bringing glory to the Father and advancing His kingdom.
Many professed Christian people sorely hate this passage of the word of God because it contains clear statements concerning the hated doctrine of a literal kingdom of God on earth, and the covenant people's responsibility to advance that kingdom. The result has been many men present untold heresies concerning this passage, in order to convince Christians that it does not apply for our day.
The Lord's sermon on the mount takes up three chapters, 5, 6 & 7. At the center is Mat 6 dealing with God's kingdom on earth.
Chapter 6 contains the strongest statement in the NT concerning the Christian's responsibility to carry on the practical work of the Lord among men.
Chapter 6, continues and clarifies Christ's instruction concerning His people's responsibility and how they can literally fulfill their responsibility to the cause of Christ.
Chapter 6 expands upon what is assumed throughout Scripture:
1) the responsibility to advance God's kingdom, and
2) the method of advancing God's kingdom.
Chapter 6 gives three basic ingredients for advancing the cause of Christ upon earth:
1) alms, or righteous works. Rushdoony has a book, Tithing
2) prayer, or humility
3) fasting, or self-denial
Then the Lord gives examples of these three responsibilities.
Chapter 6 establishes the motive that must be behind all our righteous actions.
Up to this point, the Lord has dealt with doctrinal error
Now He deals with hypocrisy in Christian action. In all three areas of action, alms, prayer, fasting, the Lord said that if we do these things for man's praise, we loose God's reward.
The first section is vv. 1-4, which gives the first step in advancing the kingdom of God on earth is righteous works.
5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Let me give 6 points from this section:
1) V. 1 gives the foundation for vv. 2-4, as well as for the rest of chapter 6. The Lord opens with the same thought presented later by the Apostle James, Faith without works is dead.
The word alms reads in the margin, righteousness. In other words, alms refers to any act of kindness freely done for the benefit of those who are in distress or misery.
The Lord is not saying that we cannot do works of mercy in public. Rather he is condemning doing those works in order to get attention"My, look how good and spiritual he is for helping those in need".
The Scribes and Pharisees did "works of mercy", but their motive was for public praise, making them hypocrites. He had already told the disciples their rightness must exceed the righteousness of the hypocrites. They did "righteous" actions which probably could not be matched by the average person. Doing those things without public notice exceeded Scribes' and Pharisees' righteousness:
Matthew 5:20 For I say unto you, except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
There is a man and woman who wander all over Moorefield begging for money. The man is big enough that he intimidates people. Somehow they seem to know which widow women live alone, and they "wiggle" their way in to maybe stay in a garage when the weather is bad. However, they normally stay in a tent.
They have been around for several years now, and have hit every church in town for money and lodging. The couple refuses to go to a family shelter in Winchester because they test for drugs, so they stay around Moorefield.
The Ministerial Association has discussed them several times, and have agreed no more money nor lodging for them. But the couple continues to approach the church members for money, which is given to them.
The ministers have not been willing to enforce nor teach on passages such as,
2 Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
So their people do not know better.
In other words, Matthew 6:1-4 do not apply to folks like that couple in town. In fact, to support them is to violate Scripture.
Righteous acts, alms, toward those in need are not only good, but are commanded by Scripture, but they are to be done without any "fanfare". For proper reward to be laid up in heave, they must be motivated by the desire to please the Father, do His divine will, bring glory to God and advance His cause on earth. The Lord here is dealing with hypocrisy in every area of life and thought.
A few points about motives:
A. wrong works with pure motives are still wrong works. Motives do not sanctify, nor make pure, our actions. Our actions are sanctified by the word of God, 1 Ti 4:5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
B. Christ clearly tells us that if the motive behind our righteous actions is to be seen of men, then we have no reward before our Father which is in heaven.
The clear warning by the Lord here is against a Christian being motivated to fulfill his Scriptural duty (alms, prayer, fasting) in order to please man or for the praise of man as the Pharisees were doing: "My, look how spiritual they are."
When one seeks the praise of man, they lose the Father's reward.
C. Christ concludes His sermon by saying that good works, regardless of their motive, will not save anyone, as we will see at Mat 7:21-29. Thus, we cannot construe even pure motives as assurance of heavenly reward &/or salvation.
It seems that the average gospel today is a social gospelthat is, assurance of eternal life based upon good works and pure motives. I am thankful for that kind of gospel, but it will not save.
D. As we will see, chapter 7 develops the thought of motives further. Vv. 1-5, develop and forbid judging one another; therefore, motives are areas that only the individual and the Father can judge.
Obviously, a person's spirituality cannot be properly judged by his outward righteous actions (or material blessings as we saw in 5:45). Only he and the Lord knows what lies in the heart.
E. God's kingdom is advanced into every area of the world by the obedience of God's people to the world of the Lord. But if their obedience is motivated by pride and self, the word of God loses its power against the gates of Hell. Pride will strip us of the Spirit's power in our righteous actions. The primary ingredient in the warfare against the powers of darkness is humility. There can be no victory apart from humility in the Child of God.
Pride will eat us alive as the worms ate Herod because he took to himself the glory due to God alone, Acts 12:23.
Is our desire in our outward Christian actions to exalt self or to exalt God?
Is our desire for praise of man or praise of God?
2) Second of our 6 points: V. 2, when, not if. This is a common point with all three: alms, prayer and fasting.
We are told elsewhere that we have a debt to those in need, particularly to fellow believers.
Galatians 6:10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
There are several Christian health care ministries around. They all put out news letters which have a section of those in need who are not covered by the ministries at that present time.
Thus, all three of these actions are presented by the Lord as responsibilities to His people.
3) Note vv. 1, 2, 3 all use an active voicedo and doest thine alms... Do speaks of action; that is, a donation of time, effort or money for the benefit of those in need. These are all considered charity. Charity is defined as help of any kind, including money, but not exclusively money. V. 4 probably refers to money more than to actions.
When we were in the 6th to 8th grades, though he had the money, dad made my brother and me work to earn money for our school supplies.
Dad furnished the mower, and we mowed yards, gleaned corn and delivered papers. I remember across the road from where we lived there was a widow with a large yard. He made us mow it without charging the lady.
Doing something like that with no charge nor fanfare for those in need would fall under the definition of alms in this section.
The central theme of Scripture is the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom. Christians doing their alms, is one of the most effective means of expanding the kingdom of God on hearth.
The Lord told us in Joh 12:8, For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always. In other words, there will always be social spending. As long as sin in among us, there will be poor among us, and the number one way of combating poverty, or advancing God's kingdom against poverty, is through the righteous works of God's people, giving of alms in this case.
Probably one of the most effective ways that the ungodly have found to advance their war against Christ is through social spending. It is not at all difficult to see what has happened over the past couple generations as the Christian's have turned alms over to the state. The state knows the power that is gained through doing alms.
Some time ago on one of Paul Harvy's Saturday news casts, he mentioned an extremely successful alms program in the south. It was started and controlled by a black church as a means to help the needy of its congregation. Their alms program grew to include several truck gardens and supermarkets to provided food for the needy in their community. Paul Harvy pointed out that the greatest enemy against that church's alms effort was from the "black leadership," the "Jessie Jacksons" of the black community. Paul Harvy pointed out that the reason they were so hostile against the godly alms program was because it striped the "black leaders" of their power over that section of the population.
Several years ago, I had a pastor friend in Dallas TX. He and his church gave out free sandwiches to those in need in a public park. The city shut them downthey saw them as a threat to their power over the needy.
With the alms goes vast amounts of power and control over people. The alms are used to buy votes and control people. When the church controlled the alms, they also established godly conditions of receiving the alms. But the desire for big buildings and huge salaries took over, and the church turned alms over to the state. With the alms went the power to enforce godly conditions upon the alms. Christians welcomed the state's ungodly intrusion into this area because it released the Christian from responsibility.
God promises that when the Christian's refuse to fulfill this responsibility, the state will. Instead of the church establishing Biblical conditions upon who receives the alms, the state establishes the conditions.
Now the power that goes with the social spending is coming back to destroy the church.
4) Fourth of the six points. The Lord uses alms as the foundation for teaching about righteous works because the love of money is the root of all evil. A person's attitude toward Godly, righteous works in general is revealed most in his attitude toward giving to finance the Kingdom work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
5) Fifth, the secrecy of V. 2 is not to be taken literally. Nor is it in the other two, prayer and fasting. The Lord in no wise forbids giving, prayer or fasting in public; rather, He is dealing with motives. All motives in these righteous actions must be as though they were being done only in private.
The Lord is condemning doing righteous actions to draw attention to ourselves, Mat 23:5, But all their works they do for to be seen of men... The hypocrite (to ware a mask, play a part) wanted to be sure that every one knew he was doing good acts. Our righteous acts are to be done as quietly as possible.
I have had people give money to me with the instructions to give it to another in need, without mentioning its source. That is exactly what God is referring to in this illustration.
6) Sixth and finally, the Lord tells Ezekiel of those who come to hear the word of God, but they did not come with any intention of doing what they heard from God. Their righteous actions were to be seen of men.
Eze 33:31 And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee [as] my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, [but] their heart goeth after their covetousness.
Why do we attend church?
One of the three weapons given us by God to use against the powers of Darkness is giving. It takes money to finance the activities of the Kingdom of God. But when the giver gives out of a spirit of pride, the giver loses his heavenly reward.
The Lord rewards according to the secrets of the heart, Ps 44:21 Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart.
Let me give some extra points for consideration here:
A) In Deuteronomy 15:7-11, we are told that the poor are left among us for a purpose: to test our faith, obedience and love before God.
Deut 15:7-11, If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: 8 But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, [in that] which he wanteth. 9 Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee. 10 Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. 11 For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.
B) In Leviticus 25:35-38, we are told that responsibility to the poor does not stop with only others of the faith. If the needy is not at war against God and the godly, he is to be regarded with compassion:
Lev 25:35-38, And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: [yea, though he be] a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee. 36 Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee. 37 Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase. 38 I [am] the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, [and] to be your God.
C) In Psalms 41:1-3, God's blessings, both material and health-wise, is directly connected with our attitude toward the needy.
Ps 41:1-3, To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. Blessed [is] he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. 2 The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; [and] he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. 3 The LORD will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness.
Maybe one reason we see such sickness today is because we have failed to respond properly to the poor.
D) In Proverbs 12:13, we see that the Lord has a way of responding to our needs as we respond to the needs of the needy.
Pro 21:13, Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.
E) Paul quotes Ps 112:9 in 2 Cor 9:9, 10 to tell us that giving to the poor is considered a necessary part of righteousness in both Testaments:
(As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for [your] food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;)
In our text, the Lord Himself identified quietly giving to the poor with the necessary works of righteousness for His people when He said that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees.
F) In 1 Peter 4:11, one's ability to give is provided by the Lord, and he will be accountable to the Lord accordingly. And not everyone has the same ability nor accountability, 1 John 3:17.
1 Pe 4:11 If any man speak, [let him speak] as the oracles
of God; if any man minister, [let him do it] as of the ability
which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through
Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever.
1 Jo 3:17 But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels [of compassion] from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
In Louisiana, we had a retired Air Force Sargent who purchased a large sand blaster. He could take what looked like an old piece of junk, sand blast it and then paint it. He would set the piece along side the road, and it would soon be sold. It seemed like everything he touched turned into a profit.
There were two men in Maryland who also seemed to have the midas touch.
God gave all three of these men the ability to make a good living, but with their God-given abilities came responsibility to use their money wisely in helping those in need. And they did.
G) God's command toward the poor is not open-ended; rather, our action toward the needy must be within the guidelines established by the word of the Lord.
The Lord, not man, identifies the poor who are worthy of generosity, and our giving must always be within the guidelines of God's word. If the poor are poor because of slothfulness, bad company, drunkenness &/or gluttony, then we cannot help them. If we help them anyway, we only encourage their indolence, 2 Thes 3;10, For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
The couple wandering around Moorefield could work if they wanted. Pilgrims Pride is always hiring.
H) Finally, our attitude toward the poor reflects our attitude toward God, Proverbs 19:17, 1 John 4:20.
Pr 19:17 He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD;
and that which he hath given will he pay him again.
1 Jo 4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
God's command to His people regarding the poor is clear. Look
at what has happen to our society because Christians have turned
over their responsibility to the state?