Living the Righteous Life – Matthew 6:1-4

Jesus, in Matthew 6:1-4, in His Sermon on the Mount, said…

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

2 “When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing 4 that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

This is a subject that, I think, is most problematic for Christians—how to live a righteous life before the world. It is problematic because our sinful pride seems to always creep in so that we want to be noticed by others in order that they will think well of us.

Here are four supporting principles of the theme of this passage:

1. Knowing the balance between Matthew 5:16 and Matthew 6:1. In Matthew 5:16 Jesus tells us that we are to let our light shine before men. But then in 6:1 He tells us, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them. So, at first glance it seems to be a contradiction. But really it is not if we are careful to look at all the details. It is clear in the first passage that we are to let our light shine before the world. But the motive is clearly that God would be glorified. And this is made clearer in 6:1, but stated differently. Hence, we are not to practice our works before men “to be noticed by them.” That is, that they would think well of us. We must shine before them in such a way that they will see Christ in us. And that attitude of the Christian is most important—because, if we do not have this attitude, we will lose our reward; and the non-Christian is also misled.

2. We are always to do our righteousness to please God not self. And we will always end up doing one or the other. In the flesh we will do to please self, and in the Spirit, we will do to please God. Now the question before us is this: Do we do things for others so that they will please us back? Or do we do things for others so that they will see us as a Christian and move closer to God.

3. Do we live the righteous life for a closer relationship with Him?  In all our righteous acts, we should be seeking to be closer to Him and to please Him. And if we do this, we will be constantly realizing that He is always present with us.

4. It is always good to desire to see Him and be rewarded by Him. Do not seek to be pleased by others or that they will think well of us. But it is always good to seek His rewards; and we should know that He sees everything we do, and He plans to reward us for every good deed.

Also, do not take pride in your unselfishness. Some people keep a journal and they record all the good things they do each day. Don’t do that! Forget about them. God keeps a record of it and He will reward you. Think instead about what God has done for you and how thankful you are.

Source: Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

What Would Jesus Say About Overtaxing the Rich?

After writing my last blog post on Overtaxing the Rich, I began thinking about what Jesus would do. So here it is…

In Luke 19:11-26 Jesus teaches His disciples about His kingdom in a parable. As you read the parable, it is not about taxation but more about investing in the kingdom. However, I think we can draw some similar principles. Here is the story:

Luke 19:11-26

While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘

Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’

14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’

15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.

16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’

17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’

18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’

19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’

20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’

22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’

24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’

25 “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’

26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.

So, if we were to draw a parallel teaching from this text to a teaching on taxation…

What Would Jesus Say About Overtaxing the Rich? That is, what would He say about Joe Biden and most Democrats appeal to place most of the taxes on the rich?

1. First of all, if they are wise investors and not criminals, as many are, he would praise them more than those who have not invested wisely.

2. He would rebuke the unwise investors.

3. I’m not sure what He would say about the whole idea of taxation, but He would definitely not be in favor of taxing the rich (who are wise investors) more that anyone else. According to this parable, if He taxed anyone more, He would tax all those who are lazy, even if they are poor, and give it to those wise investors—even if they are rich, because they are wiser investors.

Conclusion  

Jesus certainly would not tax the honest rich more than anyone else. He may even tax the poor and give that money to the honest rich to invest, in order to build the economy. Jesus would not at all be in favor of an income equality system. He would be more in favor of an equal opportunity system, and also a system where there would be freedom to make as much money as you want without being penalized for it. In fact, He would be in favor of a system where the high earner would be praised and even rewarded for his work and thriftiness. Also, I think he would shine a light on the high earner as being good examples for the low earner.

What Do Ye More than Others? – Matthew 5:47

And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same (Matt. 5:47)?

Jesus, in this verse, in the context of verses 44 through 48, is saying to us that we are to be different. The Christian is to be different than the non-Christian. We are to love our enemies (v. 44), not just our friends. And here in verses 46 and 47, He says that if we love and greet our brethren only, what good is that? Everyone does that. Rather, we are to be perfect, just as our Father in heaven is perfect (v. 48). And we can do that because we are His children (v. 45).

I have been blogging from the book, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Today I will relay briefly what he says on this text. Lloyd-Jones starts out by bringing to us Christ’s command that we are to be perfect, even as our Father is perfect.  And we may discern that this command seems impossible; but yet, at the same time, by the very fact that we are commanded to be such, implies that it is possible. It is impossible to the natural man, but very possible for the Christian man, the spiritual man.

Why is that so? What makes the Christian so different? So unique? So powerful? It has to be because we are the children of our Father in heaven, and because we have in us the characteristics of God Himself. We have in our new nature things that are never found in the non-Christian.

Here, from Lloyd-Jones’ book, are nine unique qualities that the true Christian has in contrast to the non-Christian.

1. In His attitude toward the law. The natural man may observe the law and be moral in his behavior, but he never goes beyond it. The Christian is more concerned with the spirit than with mere obedience. And he always delights in the law of God in his inner self.

2. His attitude toward morality. The natural man’s attitude about morality is generally negative in that he is focused on not doing certain things. In contrast, the Christian’s attitude is more positive; he hungers and thirsts to be righteous like God.

3. His attitude toward sin. The natural man thinks of sin in terms of things that are done or not done. The Christian is more interested in his heart—whether he is right with God or not.

4. His attitude toward himself. The natural man admits his sin, but he will never morn over it. Yet the Christian is always sorry for his sin.

5. His attitude toward other sinners. The natural man may regard others with tolerance and pity. But the Christian goes beyond that and sees them as victims of sin and held captive by Satan.

6. His view of God. The natural man may see God as someone to be obeyed and feared. But the Christian loves God because he has come to know Him.

7. His motive for a living. The natural man may desire to do good, but generally like to keep a record of it. The true Christian gives without counting the cost and does it sacrificially.

8. How he faces trials. The natural man may face trials without complaining, and powers through them with an iron will. But the Christian deep down knows that all things work together for good to them that love God. And he even rejoices in trials.

9. His attitude toward his enemies. The natural man may know how to resist striking or expressing anger toward his enemies, but he cannot love them. The Christian, however, by the Spirit of God, can indeed love his enemies genuinely, and even pray for them.

So, we see that the Christian is unique and different than the natural man. He is different because of what God has done in his heart and life. He has made him a new person with a new nature. He indeed has been changed by the work of the gospel; and he understands the gospel: that he is utterly sinful, but that God sent His only Son to die for our sins, and thus bring His forgiveness to us, and a new life. And we live now with hope for a bright future. And His Spirit lives in us, filling us, teaching us His will, even guiding us along the way. And He, from day to day empowers us to love all the people we meet and have dealings with, even our enemies.

Plan to Pray Long

There are so many people with so many needs, which require us to spend much time in prayer.  But, as Wesley Duewel has said, “We will never have enough time for prayer unless we deliberately plan for it…The time we give to prayer by deliberately planning is the measure of our value of prayer.  It is the truest measure of our love for Jesus.”5

I urge you to follow our Lord’s example in praying at night and in the early morning.  If the Lord is calling you to get up early in the morning to pray, if you want to be powerfully used by God and if you want to really know Him, you must immediately get up when He wakes you.  As E. M. Bounds has said, “No man gets God who does not follow hard after Him.”6

So wake your lazy bones up and get going with God (I’m talking to myself)!   If you are prone to be lazy and want to sleep in, I urge you to instead follow the desire to pray.  That holy desire will provide for you a great blessing when you heed its call.  And when you have decided that you are going to rise early to pray, that decision, backed up with action, will break all your self-indulgent chains, giving you greater and greater strength and desire for God.

Besides morning and evening prayers, Sunday afternoon is a great time to spend an hour or two in prayer.  What better time to use for prayer than the Lord’s Day.

If you are planning to pray long, don’t be discouraged if the first few minutes are especially difficult.  It seems, at least for me, that after twenty minutes or so of struggling in prayer, the rest of the time is more enjoyable and less of a struggle.  That is because it often takes that long to enter into that heavenly realm where you are in awe of God. 

When you get to that place in your prayers, you will almost forget that you are on earth struggling in the flesh; you will be more conscious that you are with God in the heavenly places.  That is, you will be so taken up with God that you will forget all about your earthly affairs.  In that blissful time, your thoughts will be more with God’s thoughts; therefore, you won’t be concerned with all of your worries; you will be more concerned for the will of God.  During that sweet time of prayer, you won’t be thinking about what you could be doing or what you should be doing; rather, you will be so overcome with desire for God that all you will want to do is to drink and imbibe deeply of His love. 

I challenge you to extend your prayer time for longer than twenty minutes.  It will be less of a struggle from then on.  And the blessings that follow will be tremendous!


5 Wesley Duewel, Mighty Prevailing Prayer (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Francis Asbury Press, of Zondervan Publishing House, 1990), p. 160.

6 E. M. Bounds, Power through Prayer, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House), 1979, p. 58.

Love Your Enemies

In Matthew 5: 43-44, we have this teaching to love our enemies, in contrast to the teaching of the Pharisees and scribes, to love their neighbors, but to hate their enemies.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.

It is well known that the Jews in biblical times separated themselves from all others and regarded them as dogs. They drew their teaching from the Old Testament, where we find that God commanded His people to exterminate all the pagans in Cannon: the Amorites, the Moabites, the Midianites, and the Amalekites. And they also drew their teaching from the imprecatory Psalms, where the psalmist called curses on certain of God’s enemies.

But our answer is that their extermination was not a matter of personal hate, but of judgment and for the glory of God. God loves all people—all of His creation—but at the same time He must deal with us according to our sin. So, there is love, and there is also judgment. God loves all. He causes His sun to rise on the evil as well as the good; and so, He blesses all, even those who hate Him. But at the same time, unless man repents, they will eventually be judged by a righteous and holy God.

The Command to Love

In Matthew 5:38-42, we are instructed to resist not evil.  For example, if someone slaps us on the cheek, we are not to resist him. But then, our next step is to bless the one who hit us with kindness and love. What can we say or do to bless him? What would Jesus do? Scripture says that we are to be perfect just as our Father in heaven is perfect. This is the way of a Christian, the way of love.

How to Love

I think the most basic principle of love is that it is not dependent on what others say or do to us, but is governed by our view of the needs of others. That is, we must look to see how we can help them.

This attitude requires that we be detached from ourselves. That is, we must look away from our own feelings, away from any pain and hurt and pride; we must learn to put all that aside and focus on others—to love them, to love them with a disregard for ourselves and what it may cost us. Even if they do not except our love, and if they scream at us, and even hit us; we are to understand them and persist with our mission of love to them.

Here is a three-point requirement for anyone who is interested in loving others:

1. We must understand why people will reject our love to them—because they are governed by the god of this world.

2. We must do all we can to rescue them.

3. When you love them, do it not to befriend them, but to help them and to display the love of God to them. Let them see the love of God in you.

Now, be ready to do battle. Even when you love, the world will naturally hate you. But be persistent in your reply.

  • Reply to bitter words with kind words.
  • Reply to spiteful actions with good deeds.
  • Reply to persecution with your prayers for them.

And remember, your goal is not to befriend them or get them to like you, but to allow them to see the love of God, so that they might glorify Him.

SOURCE: Studies in the Sermon of the Mount, by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones