Saturday, February 24, 2024

2024.02.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Matthew 6:1–4

Read Matthew 6:1–4

Questions from the Scripture text: With what two-word command does Matthew 6:1 begin? What were they not to do? What don’t they have, if they do works of mercy to be seen by men? What does Matthew 6:2 assume that we will do? What does it say not to do first? Who did this? Where? To have glory from whom? What does Jesus say they have? What does Matthew 6:3 assume that we will do? What shouldn’t we “let know” what? In order to keep our work of mercy of what character (Matthew 6:4)? Who sees there? What will He do?

What sorts of good works should Christians watch against doing? Matthew 6:1–4 prepares us for the morning sermon on the Lord’s Day. In these four verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that Christians should watch against “good” works that are done in order to be seen by men and get glory from men.

The works that we should do. “charitable deeds” throughout this passage is translating a compound word built upon the word for “mercy.” The word itself seems to have been used most often with financial giving for/to the poor, but it extends to all works of mercy. We should remember that the chapter divisions are artificial. The Lord has just been instructing us in the sort of love that puts that of the scribes utterly to shame. How tempting it would be for us to want this to be seen by men! Nevertheless, we should love to do these works of mercy for brother, neighbor, and enemy. This passage does not discourage them, but rather assumes that we will do them. 

The reward we should want. Reading these verses, it may occur to us that there are many who actually wouldn’t find them motivating. They like to be seen by men (Matthew 6:1). They like to have glory from men (Matthew 6:2). They spend a fair amount of mental effort ignoring God and don’t care to be noticed by Him or rewarded by Him. That feels insane to type, but we know that it is true. And if we are honest, we know that it is still too frequently too true of ourselves.

But we have a Father in heaven. He is our Father, Who has loved us and given us spiritual birth by His Spirit, adopting us in His Son, and then indwelling us with the Spirit of adoption. And He is in heaven. He is holy (cf. Matthew 6:9). He is glorious. What reward could be better than one received from Him? What reward could compare? Even if we were not reward “openly” (Matthew 6:4), it is great reward to our souls just to know that Father sees, and that Father is pleased. Even His being pleased is of grace, putting away our sin in Christ, and receiving our good works as done in Him.

The place and manner that we should avoid. We are probably not so obnoxious to sound a trumpet, or have someone do so, to announce our works of mercy. But do we do them at times and places and ways that would get noticed? Many churches actually arrange “works of mercy” as a way of “getting the church name out there” or “getting seen by the community.” This is exactly contrary to Jesus’s commandment! 

The desire to be seen is so great that the Lord Jesus doesn’t just warn us against doing good to be seen; He positively commands us to try not to be seen or known. The right hand is not to have a publicity campaign, even to the extent of making its good works known to the left hand. 

Salt is something that we already are, and if we are what we are, where He put us, there will already be light shining before men (cf. Matthew 5:13–16). But, we must be careful not to be attempting to increase our exposure. Indeed, this passage teaches us positively to attempt to decrease it. 

What works of mercy do you do? What measures do you take to keep them from being noticed/known by others? How do you keep your mind/focus upon the Lord in doing them? 

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for Your great mercy to us, including the mercy in which You have given to us to be merciful like You are. Grant that we would do so only for Your eyes, and make it sweet to us to know that You are pleased with our good works in Christ, through Whom we ask it, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP37C “Steps a Man Takes” or TPH464 “The Beatitudes”

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