“Giving to the Needy” Follow Up July 18, 2017

We can probably all agree that our hearts tend to desire praise and approval from others.

I see this in my own children. Anytime my 5-year-old does something he’s proud of (usually involving his creativity with Lego blocks), he shouts with the strong lungs he’s been gifted with: “Daddy, come look at what I did!” In similar fashion, my 4-year-old will call us over to observe his accomplishments, especially if his accomplishment involves coloring in any one of his many coloring books. For both, their hearts delight with joy when I give them praise.

Not much changes as we grow older. Our hearts tend to desire praise and approval from others.

So, when we obey our call to give to the needy, our giving often comes hand-in-hand with the temptation to receive and enjoy praise from fellow human beings—to bring glory to ourselves and magnify our own names.

It was no different in Jesus’s day. So much so that He addressed this same issue of praise-and-glory-seeking hearts in light of the kingdom of God and our relationship to it as God’s people, as citizens of heaven who have been given New Covenant hearts to give to others as Christ gave to us. And He addressed it as follows:

“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. 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. 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” (Matt 6:1-4).


As we studied this passage in our worship service this Sunday, we noticed two things to remember when we give to the needy:

  1. A temptation to fight against.
  2. A reward to look forward to.

Let’s review our first point…

A Temptation to Fight Against:

Jesus begins by presenting an all-important principle in the form of a warning. Notice it with me in the first verse: “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” (Matt 6:1).

Our initial warning is that practicing or expressing faith in hypocritical ways—pretending to do something to God’s glory when the motive is truly self-glorification—has no heavenly reward, at all. In cases where self-glorification is the true motive, the only reward is an earthly one—praise from fellow men, and that’s it.

Earlier in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had taught, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:16). So a question arises: “Do these two statements contradict one another?”

Let’s remember, back in Matthew 5:16, Jesus was explaining how His followers would function as light and salt in the world, impacting the world as people who belong to God’s kingdom. Jesus’s conclusion: Our good works as citizens of heaven are meant to glorify our Father in heaven.

This being understood, there is no contradiction at hand. There is a difference between our good works being motivated by God’s glory and our good works being motivated by self-glory, self-magnification.

Motive is the issue!

So, Jesus moves in the second verse to apply the general warning of motive to the specific practice of giving to the needy: “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” (Matt 6:2).

In Christ’s day, “relief” for the underprivileged was provided by the religious community, each person being taxed according to their ability. This amount was then supplemented by voluntary gifts, which were announced publicly at the synagogues, and, as here indicated, even in the alleyways—the places where the poor were accustomed to gather. That Jesus mentions trumpet blasts alludes to the fact that the religious leaders of His day did everything they could to advertise their gifts in order to receive praise.

For kingdom people, however, giving to the needy is motivated by God’s glory, not the magnification of oneself.

If we give for the latter purpose, to draw attention to ourselves in order to receive praise, we are only being hypocrites. In Greek—the original language of the New Testament—the word “hypocrite” originally referred to an actor who wore different masks to play various roles. But applied to faith, putting on masks meant doing right things for the wrong reasons.

William Hendriksen explains it this way: “They were hypocrites because while they pretended to give, they really intended to receive, namely, honor from men.”[1]

But praise from fellow men isn’t the only issue here. Notice the shift Jesus makes in the text: “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” (Matt 6:3-4a).

Our two hands almost always act in unison. They typically lift together, carry things together, catch things together. They can therefore be viewed as being thoroughly acquainted with each other. Whatever one does, the other knows.

With this word picture, then, Jesus is speaking of total lack of acquaintance—total ignorance—so that, as much as possible, our giving would be a secret even to ourselves.

Why?

Well, keeping the context in mind, the issue at hand is the wrong motive of human praise. So, Jesus is communicating that it’s just as wrong to praise oneself as it is to receive praise from others. It all goes back to motive: the praising, magnification, and glorification of oneself.

This is the point of all of this: Citizens of the kingdom of God give—even publicly—without desiring to magnify one’s own name. The issue isn’t giving to the needy even in public ways (more on this below), the issue is giving to the needy with the desire to magnify one’s own name, whether by others’ praise or by self-praise.

Repeatedly in Scripture, God calls His people to give to the needy, even in public ways:

Leviticus 19:9-10 commands: “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God” (emphasis mine).

In a very public way, field owners were to leave some of their harvest for the poor!

Likewise, Deuteronomy 15:11 states, “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’”

The New Testament follows in similar suit. Galatians 6:2 states, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Without a doubt, God has a heart for the needy, the suffering, the underprivileged, and the oppressed, and He calls His people to come to their aid, especially if they also belong to Christ: “Do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10).

Specific to Christian giving in the church, 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 indicates that our offerings (which are given publicly in our worship services) are also to be used to aid brothers and sisters in Christ who are in need. Paul writes: “Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem.”

Indeed, we are called to give to the needy, especially needy saints—those who already belong to our Lord. And sometimes, this giving is even done in public ways. As we obey this command to give, though, let’s remember to fight the temptation to magnify ourselves. Yes, we are to give—even publicly—but we’re to give without desiring self-glorification.

Why? Because our Father gave us His Son. And Jesus—who gave us His lifeblood in our neediest of circumstances—deserves the praise, not us.

So, when we give, we give with the cross in mind:

  • To keep us humble.
  • To help us fight against the temptation to magnify ourselves.
  • To help us direct or redirect praise to our Lord, that Christ would be magnified, not us.

Going back to Matthew 5:16, our goal as kingdom people is for our good works—including our giving to the needy—to glorify and magnify God. So, we magnify Him, and we fight the temptation to magnify ourselves.

But we also look forward to a reward…

A Reward to Look Forward To:

Notice the end of the fourth verse in our text: As we give unto God’s glory, God rewards us, and He rewards us with Himself.

Look back to the fifth beatitude at the beginning of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matt 5:7).

Earlier in our series on Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, we’ve learned that the beatitudes show us the reality of life in the kingdom of God. With this specific beatitude, then, Jesus is telling us that the merciful are those who have received mercy. This is the point: The merciful are already citizens of heaven (Matt 5:3). It’s a reality of life in the kingdom of God. As regenerated citizens of heaven, therefore, we’ve already been rewarded with heaven itself, God’s very presence. As a result, we can now consistently practice mercy with the new hearts we’ve been given through faith and new life in Christ (Jer 31:31-34).

For those who already belong to the Lord, then, our new hearts in Christ not only seek to glorify God through our good works, they also look forward to and even desire our true homeland, heaven itself.

So, when we give to the needy, let’s remember to look forward to our eternal reward: God Himself, and all of heaven with Him. Why? To begin, it’s the very reason why Christ gave us Himself at the cross, that we might become heirs of God and coheirs with Him, inheriting the reward of His kingdom, forever. He wants us for all eternity, and He wants us to reflect Him and His kingdom to all who surround us, even now, that they too might become heirs of God’s eternal reward, as well.

In the end, giving with our merciful, heavenly reward in view helps us to live missionally.

No wonder Jesus gives us a temptation to fight against and a reward to look forward to. The whole point of giving to the needy is to come alongside God’s mission and His heart for the suffering, as people who have already received the benefit of the giving of His own Son to us, unto His own glory.

Fellow citizens of heaven: Let’s remember to glorify Him through our giving, and let’s remember His merciful reward to us as we give while sojourning on this earth.

You have everything you need to fight the temptation of self-glory and to remember your heavenly reward. God has given you a new heart that now desires His glory, not your own. He has even given you His very own Spirit to remind you of your heavenly reward. Therefore, ask the Spirit of our Lord who dwells within your new heart to spiritually enable you to remember these two things in your own compassionate giving, today.

-Pastor Marttell


[1] William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew, vol. 1 of New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2004), 320.

Acts 2:42-44 Follow Up May 30, 2017

A Gospel-Centered Community

After the church was birthed through Spirit-empowered preaching of the gospel in various languages on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41), we notice the early church doing the following:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the 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 (Acts 2:42-44).

So we learn that the early church—as it united around the gospel message—faithfully devoted itself to two important practices: (1) gospel-centered teaching and (2) gospel-centered fellowship.

Gospel-Centered Teaching

The early church faithfully devoted itself to the apostles’ teaching. A natural question arises: What was their teaching? To begin, it is evident their teaching included Christ’s 40-day, post-resurrection teaching on the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). It is also evident—by turning to the overarching plot line of Acts—that the teaching centered on the gospel message. After all, Acts itself is an account of the spread of the gospel message from Jerusalem to Rome. It could be said, therefore, that the apostles’ teaching was the gospel message itself, and what the message then meant for life and faith as expressed in the New Testament epistles.

Dear church: We must similarly devote ourselves to the apostles’ gospel-centered teaching. This means we must continually point each other to the gospel. This can be done by actively and faithfully committing ourselves to a growth group or Bible study group. But, especially for those who’s schedules make it difficult to commit, let us not forget that this can be applied first-and-foremost in our individual homes. So I encourage you: Figure out a way to point each other to Christ, beginning in your own homes.

If you need some help doing this, try reading Donald S. Whitney’s Family Worship. It’s a short, 67-page book on leading gospel-centered devotionals in your own homes. And if you need help learning how the entirety of the Word of God points to Christ, try reading Trevin Wax’s Gospel-Centered Teaching: Showing Christ in all the Scriptures. This, too, is a quick read, and both are available on Amazon.com for under $8. Nothing like a low-cost investment that pays high spiritual dividends!

Gospel-Centered Fellowship

The early church was also faithful in its devotion to unity and fellowship as a response to the gospel. It was a tripartite fellowship which included (1) shared meals, (2) prayers, and (3) fulfillment of one another’s needs, all out of love for one another.

My dear church: Let us continue to do likewise, out of gospel-centered love. The Apostle John reminds us:

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1 Jn 3:16-48).

Let’s continue faithfully devoting ourselves to shared meals. Let’s continue faithfully praying for one another. Let’s continue to lovingly fulfill each other’s needs. This means an active willingness to listen to the Spirit’s leading as you hear about or come across others in our church family in need, and then responding with generous love.

On the other side of the same coin, let’s also be willing to allow ourselves to receive love. Let others invite you over for a meal. Especially when in need, allow others to bring meals to your home. Trust me, we want to help! Let others pray for you, too. This means a willingness to allow others to know the hardships you are walking through. You not only need us to point you to Christ, you also need us to pray for you, too. And last—and probably hardest—allow others to help you with your needs. Pride will tempt you. Pride will want to get in the way. But point yourself to the cross, and be reminded that in the same way you need Christ for eternal life, you also need God’s people as you sojourn on this broken earth.

It Starts In-House

Don’t forget: The context of the practices being done in Acts 2:42-44 are within the church itself. Yes, we must obey the Great Commission. Yes, we must be involved in missional outreach. But let us never forget: Pointing one another to the gospel and loving one another out of a response to the gospel starts in-house, within the church. Jesus Himself said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).

Let us, therefore, not grow weary in our faithfulness to gospel-centered teaching and fellowship. Christ has done something amazing for us (1 Cor 15:56-57); let us, then—as a response to this great news—”be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).

Keep pointing one another to Christ. Continue loving one another in Christ.

—Pastor Marttell Sánchez

Jesus in Numbers Follow Up August 8, 2016

Dear Church Family:

This Sunday we looked at the bronze serpent account in Numbers 21:4-9 and learned important truths about sin, our Mediator, and God’s grace. Here is a copy of the sermon insert in the program (including follow up questions for personal or group study): Jesus in Numbers Notes.

Next Sunday we return to our summer series on the attributes of God with Pastor Nathan, and together we will learn about the triune nature of God. Looking forward!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Marttell Sánchez

Jesus in Leviticus Follow Up July 31, 2016

This Sunday we looked at the burnt offering account in Leviticus 1:1-9 and discovered three important truths about our atonement: (1) Atonement requires a costly, personal sacrifice, (2) Atonement requires a faultless sacrifice, and (3) Atonement requires a blood sacrifice. Here is a copy of the sermon notes insert in Sunday’s program for the follow up questions you could use with your growth group or on your own: Jesus in Leviticus Notes.
Next Sunday we will be seeking Jesus in Numbers as we continue our short miniseries on Christ in the First Five.
-Pastor Marttell Sánchez

Jesus in Exodus Follow Up July 25, 2016

This Sunday we looked at the tabernacle account in Exodus 25:8-9 and discovered three biblical truths: (1) God desires to dwell among His people, (2) God requires a holy, set-apart place to dwell among His people, and (3) God equips His people for God-ordained tasks. Here is a copy of the sermon notes insert in Sunday’s program for the follow up questions you could use with your growth group or on your own: Jesus in Exodus Notes.

Next Sunday we will be seeking Jesus in Leviticus as we continue our short break from our summer series on the attributes of God.

-Pastor Marttell Sánchez