PRACTICING YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS BEFORE MEN TO BE NOTICED BY THEM:
[de] ten dikaiosunen humon me poiein (PAN) emprosthen ton anthropon pros
to theathenai (APN) autois
(Mt 16:6; Mark 8:15; Luke 11:35; 12:1,15; Hebrews 2:1) (Deuteronomy
24:13; Psalms 112:9; Daniel 4:27; 2Corinthians 9:9,10) (Mt 6:5,16; 5:16;
23:5,14,28, 29, 30; 2Ki 10:16,31; Ezekiel 33:31; Zechariah 7:5; 13:4;
Luke 16:15; John 5:44; 12:43; Galatians 6:12)
lose the approval of God
when we seek the applause of men.
MATTHEW 6:1-18 THE KING
CONTRASTS THE LAWS OF HIS KINGDOM WITH THE CONDUCT OF OUTWARD
RELIGIONISTS IN THE MATTERS OF ALMS AND PRAYER 1. TAKE heed
that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them:
otherwise ye hate no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
Our King sets men right as
to Almsgiving. It is taken for granted that we give to the
poor. How could we be in Christ’s kingdom if we did not?
Alms may be given publicly, but not for the sake of publicity.
It is important that we have a right aim; for if we obtain the
result of a wrong aim, our success will be a failure. If we
give to be seen, we shall be seen, and there will be an end of
it: “Ye have no reward of your father which is in heaven ”: we
lose the only reward worth having. But if we give to please
our Father, we shall find our reward at his hands. To the
matter of our intent and design we must “take heed ”; for
nobody goes right without carefully aiming to do so. Our
giving of alms should be a holy duty, carefully performed, not
for our own honor, but for God’s pleasure. Let each reader ask
himself, how much he has done, in the way the King prescribes. (Commentary)
As Kent Hughes reminds us...
None of us completely meets the
standard of the Sermon on the Mount. But at the same time, if we are
true believers, something of the character of the kingdom, something of
each of the Beatitudes, will be authentically present in our lives -
spiritual poverty, humility, spiritual thirst, mercy, peacemaking. Along
with this, there will be the presence of the surpassing righteousness of
Christ. We may fall at times, but we will practice righteousness. Anger,
adulterous thoughts, insincere talk, and retaliation will progressively
vanish from our lives. Agape love will become characteristic of us. When
we are filled with the Holy Spirit and with his Word, including the
explicit teaching of the Sermon on the Mount, we will practice
righteousness. However, this is where the danger lies. For once you
begin to fulfill the righteousness of God, once you are flying
spiritually, once you are living a life full of good deeds, it is very
easy to begin "doing your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen
by them." (Hughes, R. K.
Sermon on the Mount: The Message of
the Kingdom. Crossway Books)
In Matthew 6:1-18, the three
righteous practices (giving, praying, fasting)
are supposed to be worship
rendered to God, never displays of self righteousness to gain the
admiration of others. Not only was the Pharisees’ interpretation of the
Law perverted in Matthew 5:21-48, but also the their religious practice
was a sham.
Phil Newton writes...
After commanding perfection he
immediately warns of the subtleties of hypocrisy that can creep into our
spiritual pursuits. The problem does not rest in the pursuits but in the
individual heart. Motives of love and devotion can become colored with
self-centeredness. Because of sin’s deceitfulness, the Christian must be
on guard against hypocrisy. It can slip into the most devoted
Christian’s life so our Lord calls attention to the need for holy
motivations in righteous pursuits... He has been addressing the matter
of personal righteousness in terms of doing the will of God in the realm
of morality. Now he considers doing the will of God in religious
Barclay adds that...
To the Jew there were three
great cardinal works of the religious life, three great pillars on which
the good life was based—almsgiving, prayer and fasting. Jesus would not
for a moment have disputed that; what troubled him was that so often in
human life the finest things were done from the wrong motives.
The Gospel of Matthew The New Daily
Study Bible Westminster John Knox Press)
from pros = before + echo = hold) means
literally to hold before and then to take heed, be in a state of high
alert , watch out for or be on guard. The idea is to turn one’s mind or
attention to a thing by being on one’s guard against it. In this context
beware points to the motives behind the Christian’s devotion and
duty. When we give our offering or preach our sermons or offer our
public and even private prayers or help the poor or discipline our
bodies, what has been the motive behind it?
calls for the wise citizen of the
kingdom of heaven to be continually on the look out for this sometimes
not so blatant temptation to give, pray or fast so that you are
recognized or honored by men. Wuest picks up the sense of the present
Moreover, be holding your mind on the
matter of not practicing your correctness of thinking, feeling, and
acting before men in order to be attentively viewed by them as a
To "beware" means that one
must continually (present
be vigilant to the ever present danger even in believers (because we
still have the old "flesh") to practice righteous acts out
of the wrong motivation.
Prosecho - 24x in 24v - Matt
6:1; 7:15; 10:17; 16:6, 11f; Luke 12:1; 17:3; 20:46; 21:34; Acts 5:35;
8:6, 10f; 16:14; 20:28; 1 Tim 1:4; 3:8; 4:1, 13; Titus 1:14; Heb 2:1;
7:13; 2 Pet 1:19. The NAS renders it as addicted to(1), be on guard(m)(3),
beware(8), give attention(1), giving attention(3),officiated(1), pay
attention(3), paying attention(2), respond to(1), take care(1).
Practicing (poieo = to
do, perform) is in the
which pictures this as one's lifestyle.
Righteousness - There are two
varieties and both can "look good", but those acts initiated and carried
out in our own fleshly energy and calculated to impress others, do not
impress God! See below for a brief discussion of the second type of
righteousness which is the only type acceptable to our Father.
[word study] from
dikaios [word study]
= being proper or right in the
sense of being fully justified being or in accordance with what God
requires) is the quality of being upright. In its simplest sense
conveys the idea of conformity to a standard or norm. In this sense
righteousness is the opposite of hamartia (sin), which is defined as
missing of the mark set by God.
In this sense righteousness is the opposite of hamartia (sin),
which is defined as missing of the mark set by God.
rightness of character before God and rightness of actions before men.
to read Pastor Ray Pritchard's interesting analysis of righteousness
in the Gospel of Matthew).
The word “righteousness”
comes from a root word that means “straightness.” It refers to a state
that conforms to an authoritative standard. Righteousness is a moral
concept. God’s character is the definition and source of all
righteousness. God is totally righteous because He is totally as He
God pleasing righteousness
is all that God is, all that He commands, all that He demands, all that
He approves, all that He provides through Jesus Christ. In the present
context righteousness is the general description for acts of devotion
and religious duty which conform to the will of God.
Righteousness before men to be
noticed by them is self righteousness. Righteousness that God accepts is
His character reproduced in and through us for His good pleasure. Then
when others see this "supernatural righteousness" in our lives, they
give the glory to God. Compare this to Jesus' purpose statement for our
lives in Matthew 5...
your light shine
before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify
your Father who is in heaven. (see note
(Notice the "red letters" which I usually use to signify a verb is in
the form of a command - here in the form of the
do it effectively. This is a
permissive imperative which means to permit your light to shine. Don’t
do anything that will cover it, hide it or snuff it out. To shine is not
optional! If we fail to obey our Lord's command we will fail to fulfill
His purpose for us in His glorious plan.)
(emprosthen from en = in + prós = toward + suffix
-then) is used only to refer to place or position (not time) and
means in front of, in the presence of or in the sight of.
(theaomai) means to look closely at. It describes a calm,
continuous contemplation of some object which remains before the
spectator. It is interesting to note that the derivative English word is
"theatrical" (marked by pretense or artificiality of emotion,
marked by extravagant display or exhibitionism, having the character
like that of acted plays) which gives us a clue as to the real
motivation behind acts of self righteousness! Although others may
observe these acts (e.g., the church accountant will see your
donations), this fact must not be the motive behind the deeds.
Be careful not to do the right thing
for the wrong reason.
Phil Newton warns that...
Sinful motives can slip into our
lives when we may not even realize it. On one occasion, the Apostle
Peter had been enjoying fellowship meals with the Gentile believers at
Antioch. But when a group of strong-minded Jews that professed to be
Christians came into Antioch (Judaizers), Peter withdrew from the
fellowship with the Gentiles, and held himself aloof from them. Paul
confronted him, calling Peter’s action “hypocrisy.” The problem was not
just when the Jews came into town. It was deeper as Peter’s motive for
being with the Gentile Christians lacked the integrity to keep him
steadfast. He was doing the right thing in being with them, but he did
so out of convenience and maybe even the desire for attention rather
than for the right motive to honor the Lord in relationships with
Gentile believers. The coming of the Judaizers exposed Peter’s latent
hypocrisy. He wanted “to be noticed” by the Gentiles when convenient and
then by the Judaizers. In both cases he showed hypocrisy in motivation,
and as Paul put it, “stood condemned” (Gal 2:11-14)...
The greatest hindrance in right
motives is the desire to please yourself rather than the Lord.
Selfishness can lead to doing great exploits in the name of Christ when
we really do so for ourselves. It can show up by going to the mission
field and receiving the accolades of men for such sacrifice, when the
real reason is to make a name for one’s self. John Wesley traveled to
the primitive colonial state of 18th C. Georgia to do missionary work
before he was converted. He thought that such action would improve his
standing with God – a self-centered motive. Though he did a noble deed
he found it to be a miserable experience wrought out with wrong motives.
comments on practicing our righteousness before men noting that
Ultimately our only reason for
pleasing men around us is that we may please ourselves. Our real desire
is not to please others as such; we want to please them because we know
that, if we do, they will think better of us. In other words, we are
pleasing ourselves and are merely concerned about self-gratification”
(Lloyd-Jones, D. M.
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)
Though others may not observe us
And see how we serve God today,
Our job as servants of Jesus
Is to please Him in every way.
HAVE NO REWARD WITH YOUR FATHER WHO IS IN HEAVEN:
ei de me ge, misthon ouk echete (2PPAI) para to patri humon to en tois
(Mt 6:4,6; 5:46; 10:41,42;
16:27; 25:40; 1Corinthians 9:17,18; Hebrews 6:10; 11:26; 2John 1:8)
Otherwise - In a different
way. If not. This word in a sense combines an explanation and a
(ouk) means absolutely not. Ou and ouk express
direct and full negation (action of making negative), independently and
absolutely, and hence, objectively.
Spurgeon observes that...
You cannot expect to be paid
twice, if therefore you take your reward in the applause of men, who
give you a high character for generosity, you cannot expect to have any
reward from God. We ought to have a single eye to God’s accepting what
we give, and to have little or no thought of what man may say concerning
our charitable gifts.
The motive which leads a man to
give, will form the true estimate of what he does. If he gives to be
seen of men then when he is seen of men he has the reward he sought for,
and he will never have any other. Let us never do our alms before men,
to be seen of them.
If the action is not done in the
Lord's service, but with a view to our own honour, we cannot expect a
reward from above.
When you receive glory from men, you
receive no reward from your Father in heaven. Why? For His Name is
Qanna', Jealous, (Ex 34:14) and His declaration is
"For My own sake, for My own
sake, I will act; for how can My name be profaned? And My glory I
will not give to another. (Isaiah 48:11)
Paul gives us a similar truth in a
And whatever you do in word or
deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to
God the Father... Whatever
you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men
knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the
inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. (see notes
Note Jesus condemns the motive
and not the deed.
Wrong motive means no reward from your
Father. Paul reaffirmed this writing...
The Lord will come and will both bring
to light (cause light to shine upon and so cause to be fully known by
clearly revealing down to the smallest detail) the things hidden (krupto -
gives us "crypt" = concealed, in secret where others cannot see! But God
sees) in the darkness and disclose (make externally manifest to the
senses and thus open to all making visible that which has been hidden)
the motives (that which has been purposed and planned, the willful
intention) of men's
hearts; and then each man's
praise will come to him from God. (1Cor 4:5)
In Proverbs the wisest man of his day
explained that as smelting brings forth impurities, praise from men helps
him rid his heart of all motives that are base, insincere and non-God
glorifying, writing that...
The crucible is for silver and the
furnace for gold, and a man is tested by the praise accorded him. (Proverbs 27:21)
John warned the believers
that because there were many deceivers it was imperative that they...
Watch yourselves (keep your eye
first on yourself for your spirit is willing but your flesh is weak),
that you might not lose (Greek word is
which pertains to
destruction but not annihilation. It basically has to do with that which
is ruined and is no longer usable for its intended purpose) what we have
accomplished, but that you may receive (receive in full what is one’s
due including idea of receive back) a full (abounding, abundant) reward
(Ed: All believers will receive praise at the judgment seat of Christ
according to 1Co 4:5, but some will receive more rewards than others 1Cor. 3:11-15). (2 John
literally refers to pay which is due
for labor performed or dues paid for work.
Misthos is used in two
general senses in the NT, either to refer to wages or to reward,
recognition or recompense. In this latter figurative usage, misthos
refers to rewards which God bestows for the moral quality of an action,
such rewards most often to be bestowed in eternity future.
Some uses as in this present
passage in 2Peter refer to "wages" obtained through iniquity, similar to
the "wages" paid to Judas for his betrayal of Christ (see Acts 1:18).
Although Paul does not use misthos
in the following passage, the principle of spiritual reaping clearly is
related to rewards both here and in the future...
For the one who sows to his own flesh
shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit
shall from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Gal 6:8-note)
Jesus associates rewards
with giving, fasting and praying teaching that are dependent upon one's
motive (Mt 6:2, 5, 16-see notes
Note especially future rewards for having suffered for the Name of
Christ in this life (Mt 5:12-note;
To both the Greek and Hebrew mind the idea of reward had to do with the
wholeness of an action or stated another way with the completion of a
deed. The reward was part of the action or deed. Therefore, just as work
completed would result in the payment of wages, so it was assumed that
an action naturally carried certain results, either reward or
punishment. The concept of a reward also involved a return commensurate
with the action or deed performed.
The concept of rewards for good
behavior and punishment for bad behavior is common in the Old Testament
and in Jewish literature. Deuteronomy 28 lists a series of rewards and
punishments (blessing and cursing) that are distributed according to
Israel’s faithfulness to the covenant (cf Isa. 65:6, 7; 66:6).
The Father will reward us...
For God is not unjust so as to forget
your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having
ministered and in still ministering to the saints. (Heb 6:10-note)
(pater) (see discussion of
"father" on Mt 6:9) is found ten times in Mt 6:1-18 and is a key word which
helps us understand them that practical deeds of righteousness should be
done for His approval, not for men’s.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus has
associated certain character traits (the beatitudes in Mt 5:3-12) with
the "reward" of different blessings.
The principle that all believers
need to understand in this section is that it is possible for a believer
to perform ostensibly wonderful deeds and yet receive no reward from
God. For example, we may pray for those who persecute us and yet still
receive no reward. Why not? Jesus alludes to the ever present danger
that it is possible even for believers to do these things for the
recognition of men and not of God.
Unger has an excellent summary
of rewards writing that...
Rewards are offered by God to
a believer on the basis of faithful service rendered after salvation. It
is clear from Scripture that God offers to the lost salvation and for
the faithful service of the saved, rewards. Often in theological
thinking salvation and rewards are confused. However, these two
terms must be carefully distinguished. Salvation is a free gift (John
4:10; Ro 6:23; Eph. 2:8, 9, whereas rewards are earned by works
(Matt. 10:42; cf. Luke 19:17; 1Cor. 9:24-25; 2Ti 4:7, 8). Then, too,
salvation is a present possession (Luke 7:50; John 5:24). On the other
hand, rewards are future attainment to be dispensed at the second
coming of Christ for His own (Matt. 16:27; 2Ti 4:8). Rewards
will be dispensed at the judgment seat of Christ (2Cor. 5:10; Ro
14:10). The doctrine of rewards is inseparably connected with God’s
grace. A soul is saved on the basis of divine grace; there is no room
for the building up of merit on the part of the believer. Yet God
recognizes an obligation on His part to reward His saved ones for
their service to Him. Nothing can be done to merit salvation, but what
the believer has achieved for God’s glory, God recognizes with
rewards at the judgment seat of Christ. For the central passages on
rewards see 1Cor. 3:9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 1Cor 9:16, 17, 18, 19,
20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27; 2Cor 5:10. (Unger,
M. F., Harrison, R. K., Vos, H. F., Barber, C. J., & Unger, M. F. The
New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Chicago: Moody Press)
of the Saints
R A Torrey
Is from God -Romans 2:7; Colossians
3:24; Hebrews 11:6
Is of grace, through faith alone -Romans 4:4,5,16; 11:6
Is of God’s good pleasure Matthew 20:14,15; Luke 12:32
Prepared by God -Hebrews 11:16
Prepared by Christ -John 14:2
As servants of Christ -Colossians 3:24
Not on account of their merits -Romans 4:4,5
Being with Christ -John 12:26; 14:3; Philippians 1:23; 1Th 4:17
Beholding the face of God -Psalms 17:15; Mt 5:8; Rev 22:4
Beholding the glory of Christ -John 17:24
Being glorified with Christ -Ro 8:17,18; Col 3:4; Php 3:21; 1Jn 3:2
Sitting in judgment with Christ -Da 7:22; Mt 19:28; Lk 22:30; 1Co 6:2
Reigning with Christ -2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 3:21; 5:10; 20:4
Reigning for ever and ever -Revelation 22:5
A crown of righteousness -2 Timothy 4:8
A crown of glory -1 Peter 5:4
A crown of life -James 1:12; Revelation 2:10
An incorruptible crown -1 Corinthians 9:25
Joint heirship with Christ -Romans 8:17
Inheritance of all things -Revelation 21:7
Inheritance with saints in light -Acts 20:32; 26:18; Col 1:12
Inheritance eternal -Hebrews 9:15
Inheritance incorruptible -1 Peter 1:4
A kingdom -Matthew 25:34; Luke 22:29
A kingdom immovable -Hebrews 12:28
Shining as the stars -Daniel 12:3
Everlasting light -Isaiah 60:19
Everlasting life -Lk 18:30; Jn 6:40; 17:2,3; Ro 2:7; 6:23; 1Jn 5:11
An enduring substance -Hebrews 10:34
A house eternal in the heavens -2 Corinthians 5:1
A city which had foundation -Hebrews 11:10
Entering into the joy of the Lord -Matthew 25:21; Hebrews 12:2
Rest -Hebrews 4:9; Revelation 14:13
Fulness of joy -Psalms 16:11
The prize of the high calling of God in Christ -Philippians 3:14
Treasure in heaven -Matthew 19:21; Luke 12:33
An eternal weight of glory -2 Corinthians 4:17
Is great -Matthew 5:12; Luke 6:35; Hebrews 10:35
Is full -2 John 1:8
Is sure -Proverbs 11:18
Is satisfying -Psalms 17:15
Is inestimable -Isaiah 64:4; 1 Corinthians 2:9
Saints may feel confident of -Ps 73:24; Isa 25:8,9; 2Co 5:1; 2Ti 4:8
Hope of, a cause of rejoicing -Romans 5:2
Be careful not to lose -2 John 1:8
THE PROSPECT OF REWARDS IN HEAVEN SHOULD
MOTIVATE IN US...
Diligence -2 John 1:8
Pressing forward -Philippians 3:14
Enduring suffering for Christ -2Corinthians 4:16-18; Hebrews 11:26
Faithfulness to death -Revelation 2:10
Endurance of present afflictions for they are not to be compared with
future glory -Ro 8:18; 2Co 5:17
Shall be given at the second coming of Christ -Mt 16:27; Rev 22:12
JOIN THE SECRET
SERVICE! - When we serve God in secret, we receive a double reward.
Not only will God one day reward us “openly” (Mt. 6:4), but we will
enjoy the memory of what we did.
Thomas La Mance wrote: “Several years back . . . I was lounging around
in the living room listening to the radio when my dad came in from
shoveling snow. He looked at me and said, ‘In 24 hours you won’t even
remember what you are listening to now. How about doing something for
the next 20 minutes that you’ll remember the next 20 years? I promise
that you’ll enjoy it every time you think of it.’
“‘What is it?’ I asked. ‘Well, Son, there are several inches of snow on
Mrs. Brown’s walks,’ he replied. ‘Why don’t you go see if you can shovel
it off and get back home without her knowing you did it?’
“I did the walk in about 15 minutes. She never knew who did the job, and
my dad was right. It’s been a lot more than 20 years, and I’ve enjoyed
the memory every time I’ve thought about it.”
Jesus said that when we do good to get men’s applause, we have our
reward. Instead, let’s serve Him in secret. And remember, the memory is
part of the reward! - David Egner
DON'T BE A FAKE
- Every day, thousands of people travel from Hong Kong to Shenzhen,
China, and head straight for Lo Wu Commercial City, a giant shopping
mall that sells imitations of luxury items. In a New York Times article,
Mark Landler says, “With five floors and 500,000 square feet of retail
space, Lo Wu may be the world’s capital of counterfeit goods.”
People eagerly pay $58 for a bogus Rolex watch. They buy imitation Gucci
shoes, Fendi clothing, and Chanel wallets for a fraction of the prices
charged for the real thing. Scuffles often break out as shoppers
struggle for the most popular goods.
What a commentary on man’s tendency to value outward appearance more
than reality! We pay big money to have the right label and “look,” even
if the merchandise is not authentic.
This tendency can also be seen in spiritual matters. In Matthew 6, Jesus
condemned the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. They did good deeds (Mt
6:2), prayed (Mt 6:5), and fasted (Mt 6:16) to create an appearance of
being devoted to God. They seemed genuine, but their hearts were far
The solution to hypocrisy is found in the prayer Jesus taught His
disciples (Mt 6:9-13). As we pray it sincerely, we will stop faking it
and get real with God.— by David C. McCasland
Oh, how we fear to drop our masks!
We know so well what lies within;
Yet Christ could use our lives to bless
If we would first be cleansed from sin.
The harder you work at what you should be,
the less you'll try to hide what you are.
Speechwriter Peggy Noonan, in her book Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of
Happiness, noted that appearances can be deceiving. “People never look
like what they are,” Noonan wrote. Of one unscrupulous businessman she
commented that if we could see him as he really is, “He’d be sitting
there at the dinner party with a dagger in his teeth.” To all outward
appearances he was an upstanding citizen, yet he was a hypocrite to the
Jesus called the religious leaders of His day “hypocrites” (Mt.
23:13-15). He meant that they were actors. In ancient theaters, each
actor played several parts. To change identities, he would simply wear a
different mask. Those religious leaders were changing masks. They were
putting on a performance to win the applause of the community, but they
didn’t care what they were like deep inside.
Jesus instructed us not to be like the hypocrites, who perform their
religious “duties” to be seen by others (Mt. 6:1-6). He said, “When you
do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right
hand is doing” (v.3).
God isn’t impressed by the masks we wear to get approval. Instead, He
reserves His applause for those who worship Him and give themselves in
love to others. — by Haddon W. Robinson
Oh, how we fear to drop our masks!
We know so well what lies within;
Yet Christ could use our lives to bless
If we would first be cleansed from sin.
BEWARE! DON'T DECEIVE
A false life never goes with a
THE INWARDNESS OF
by F B Meyer
IN the former paragraph of this
wonderful sermon (Matt. 6:17) our Lord began by laying down a general
principle and then proceeded to illustrate it by five particular
First, He announced that His attitude towards the Mosaic institutions
was not one of destruction, but of fulfilment; and then He showed that
the love which He had brought to earth would realize all that Moses
asked and more.
The structure of the present paragraph is precisely similar, as appears
from a study of the R.V., which substitutes for Alms (Matt. 6:1, A.V.)
the word Righteousness, so that the first verse is a general heading for
all that follows. First we have the general proposition that
righteousness should not he done for the, sake of display; and then we
have that principle applied to alms, prayer, and fasting, the three
departments into which the Jews divided their religious life.
That word "Take heed" is very searching. We are all liable to the
temptation to put more and better goods in the window than we have
anywhere else in the shop, and to show fairer samples than we can supply
in bulk. Three times over in these paragraphs the Lord speaks of the
hypocrites (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16); and the hypocrite; as the Greek word
intimates, is a strange actor. We are all tempted to perform our
religious duties for the show of them before others, and to appear in
public arrayed in garments that we do not wear day by day. Our Lord
called this spirit "the leaven of the Pharisees," referring without
doubt to the slight and subtle beginnings of this spirit, and its rapid
growth, filling the heart with fermentation and decay. Once you begin to
think that you must keep up appearances as a religious man, and
endeavour to do so; once you listen, as Simon Stylites, to the murmur of
applause which greets you as above the average; once you assume the
robes of purity and piety to attract the gaze of your fellows, you have
admitted a principle into your heart which not only will rob you of your
reward in heaven, but will ultimately eat out all the purity and
loveliness of your religious life.
We are all tempted to Outwardness in Religion.
Some, of course, seek to acquire a reputation for piety to serve as a
cloak for their nefarious purposes. They weave with assiduous care a
rich vestment of alms, prayers, and self-privations, to hide their
unhallowed and self-indulgent lives. Such people are, of course,
mortified when any of their religious acts do not come to the front and
secure notice. And when they have built up for themselves a great
reputation by their charitable deeds, they devour widows' houses and
take a mean advantage of their wards. Judas was one of these people; he
had built up so great a reputation that none of his follow-disciples
guessed he was about to do the deed of treachery, and beneath the cover
of such reputation he was able to filch the contents of the bag.
There are others again who, with sincere and transparent motives, began
to love and serve God for Himself; but as the days have passed they
discover that they are regarded as saints, and the sense of being held
in reverence by their fellows as "unco guid," fascinates them. They
become as proud of their grace as other people of their lace, their
place, or their race. They realize that they must maintain their
reputation at all costs. Of course, the best way to maintain and
increase such a reputation is to cease to think about it, and live only
for the Lord Jesus; but directly we fail to do this and occupy ourselves
with our reputation and the long shadow it casts on the lawn, We are
tempted to do things, not because God asks them of us but to resuscitate
our waning credit. Our native character is getting a little threadbare,
and instead of cleaving closer to God, we put a patch on the elbow or
knee by a generous gift, or a call to prayer, or the assumption in tone
and manner of special sanctity.
As to alms. The Jews were trained from their earliest days to be
merciful and charitable. The law of Moses continually inculcated
remembrance of the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. Liberality
to the poor was reckoned as part of religious duty towards God. The
prophets never forgot to urge the people to deal bread to the hungry, to
bring the outcast home, and to cover the naked. A row of alms-boxes
stood in the Temple courts to receive the offerings of worshippers; and
at every Sabbath morning service in the synagogues appointed officers
collected money for the poor of the town, which was distributed the same
afternoon But in our Lord's time men gave their money to secure merit
with God and admiration from men, They bestowed their charity at the
doors of the synagogue, where beggars congregated and passers-by could
see; or distributed it as they came along the streets.
Mrs. Judson, in her account of the first Burman convert, says: "A few
days ago I was reading with him the Sermon on the Mount. He was deeply
impressed and unusually solemn. "These words," said he, take hold of my
very heart. They make me tremble. Here God commands us to do everything
in secret, and not to be seen of men. How unlike our religion is! When
Burmans make offerings at the pagodas, they make a great noise with
trumpets and musical instruments that others may see how good they are.
But this religion makes the mind fear God."
Probably what has been said of the Jews and Burmans is true of us all.
It is apt to make a considerable difference to our gift if the open
plate is handed to us, and our coin lies open to all eyes, or whether
the offering be taken with a bag.
First as to prayer.
Our Lord, of course, is referring not
to social, but private prayer. For the greater part of the day the doors
of the synagogues stood open, as the doors of mosques or Roman Catholic
churches do in foreign countries; and the Pharisees, at the three hours
of prayer observed by all pious Jews, were not content with kneeling in
the privacy of their own homes, but deliberately left their homes with
the avowed intention and purpose of being seen in the place of public
prayer. They took care, also, to be frequently overtaken in the streets,
at the hour of prayer, that they might go through their long liturgies
of prayer within view of all the passers-by.
Amongst ourselves the tendency is certainly to conceal, rather than
parade, our private prayers; and yet there is a subtle temptation to be
more reverent in our demeanour, more careful in saying our prayers and
reading our Bibles, when we are in the company of religious people, than
when we are alone.
As to Fasting.
There were several fast-days-in the
Jewish year, in addition to the Great Day of Atonement, when the people
were called upon to afflict their souls by public fasting. Yet this
exercise did not always involve entire abstinence, but often consisted
only in the sacrifice of a single meal. The Pharisees and others,
however, gave evidence of their exceptional piety by exceptional
austerities, and took care to let it be known that they were fasting, by
their gloomy countenances and squalid dress.
Our temptation is not in the direction of fasting too much, but of never
checking the indulgence of appetite in any degree or on any occasion.
Probably we would be much healthier and stronger if now and again we
were to reduce our meals and rest the organs of nutrition. But our
temptation comes in another way. We affect a depression, a melancholy, a
concern for our country, the state of our churches, the unorthodoxy of
certain ministers or a self-depreciation, as miserable sinners, which we
do not really feel. It gives us a certain character amongst our fellows,
but it is hypocrisy in the sight of God.
There are those among us who never shed real tears of heartbroken grief
before God for the state of things which they affect to deplore, but who
pose among us as Jeremiahs. There are others who never take a glimpse of
real and pure fellowship with God or of themselves but they rush with it
into print or speech; and whilst they are passing through such
experiences they congratulate themselves that now, at length, they have
something worth narrating in the experience meeting or the religious
This outwardness of religion is most injurious to us all. Plants
subjected to sunlight by day and the electric light by night soon fade.
What is the cure for it?
The cure for Outwardness in Religion is the cultivation of a Filial
Our Lord lived the filial life to its
perfection, and shows us what it is. Notice how all His thoughts seem to
run up into the one absorbing central thought of the Father, "which is
in Heaven." He is thy Father, His relationship to each soul is personal.
He is in secret, and is" thy Father, which seeth in secret," and He
waits "to reward openly." There is no need of vain repetitions with Him,
because He knows what we have need of. All prayer is to be directed to
Him. It is He who forgives sins. It is He who clothes and feeds ravens,
lilies, and His children. From beginning to end this chapter is full of
the Father, who was the One Spectator and Audience before whom our Lord
lived His earthly life.
Not only did our Lord paint the blessedness of that filial life, but He
came to give it to us all. This is what we are called to know, and He
has the power to make it ours. Let us ask Him to do this great thing for
us here and now. "To them who receive Him He gives the privilege of
becoming sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name " " and
because we are sons, God sends the Spirit of His Son into our hearts."
Then the Father finds the child, and the child finds the Father; and
such community and closeness of intimacy ensue from this finding that
the Father's smile and good pleasure become all the reward that the
child cares for. Oh, let us never be content until, in our inner
experience, God our Father becomes All in All!
Then we shall never think of doing our righteousness before men. We
shall be good, not to win the approval of our conscience; not because we
are inspired by an abstract love of virtue, as climbers may be ambitious
to climb to some hitherto inaccessible peak; not even out of regard for
the welfare of others, but because we desire, above all things, to give
pleasure to the Father who is in secret. Religion will thus become a
sacred inward secret. We shall have boldness to enter into the Holiest
of All by the blood of Jesus, and shall dwell in the secret place of the
Most High. Even when no earthly temple invites us, we shall enter the
temple of our own heart and find God waiting there, in those hidden
depths which lie below consciousness, and there shall worship Him, who
is Spirit, in spirit and in truth.
To the Christian, it has been truly said, so far as any influence on his
moral condition is concerned, privacy and publicity are words without
meaning. He acts before men as he does alone, and acts alone as he does
before men; for he is never "alone" from that one Spectator, who sees in
secret, and whom he seeks to please. One presence fills, possesses,
Do you know what this is? Since I have been forbidden to use my eyes for
reading in a railway train, I have learnt some wonderful lessons along
this line. Sitting quietly in the carriage I have sought to unite myself
with God, not asking Him to help me, but asking if I may help Him; not
seeking His sanction on my schemes, but seeking that I may enter into
His Redemptive purposes for those whom I love, for His Church and the
poor hungry, needy world. It has been a fruitful experience, and I see
how it is possible so to cultivate the sense of the presence of God, and
the endeavour to know what is passing in His heart and thought, that
one's absorbing impression tends to be of Him, and His will, and His
We must cultivate this openness of heart towards God.
There must be no lie in our life, no
lack of transparency or sincerity, no concealment or withholding. All
the secrets of heart and life must be naked and bare before the eyes of
Him with whom we have to do. We must watch against any attempt to seem
more and better than we are. We must guard our life in secret as our
most sacred jewel. And before we give, or pray, or fast, there must be
the quiet gathering of the soul up before God, the silencing of every
voice, the screening of all footlights and sidelights, the descent into
those deepest depths which no eagle's eye has seen. Thus God will become
the supreme object of our endeavour, as we admonish ourselves, saying,
"My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from Him."
The manifestation of this inward fellowship will he instantly and
(1) We shall realize the Brotherhood of the Filial Life.
When we are near God we shall begin
to be occupied with the condition of His children, our brethren and
sisters; shall look upon all our possessions as give us in trust by Him
for them; we shall ask what He would have us expend on His behalf.
Alms-giving will at once become a sacred thing, into which the stranger
may not intrude, it is entirely a matter between the Father and His
child. Even the left hand knows not what the right hand gives.
Christian charity is not alms in the usual acceptation of the term, but
the service of the Father. Indeed, Christ belittles the alms, and thinks
only of the Father's glory and pleasure. Alas, that the Christian Church
has reversed this, magnifying the alms and not stopping to inquire the
motive. What has been the result? Millions have been given, but the
miseries of the world are no less. We have pauperized and demoralized
those whom, with the best intentions, we meant to help. Before our alms
can really help men we must get on our Lord's level. The alms must be
fed from love to God, as an inland lake is fed from some secret burn,
which pours into it waters from mountains far away.
(2) We shall become identified with the Father's Purposes.
Our hearts are deeply wrought upon as
we continue in this blissful fellowship, until they pour themselves out
in prayer. "Ye people, pour out your heart before Him." But we no longer
pray for our way or plans. Instead of this we say: "Thou art holy and
precious to me; I want to see Thee revered and loved; I desire that
others shall see what I see; I find Thy will my heaven, and long to see
all resistance and indifference brought to an end." Then daily bread,
forgiveness, and deliverance from temptation, become so many means to
the one common purpose and goal of our choice.
The soul that really gets quiet before God, realizing that He is in
secret, is compelled to pray thus. You might as well stop the tide from
flowing, birds from song, and children from laughter, as stop that soul
"Prayer is the Christian's vital
The Christian's native air."
(3) Radiancy of Joy.
We may in out heart of hearts be
laying aside this and the other weight. But we know there is no merit in
it. We only desire to lessen the influence of the flesh, that we may
promote the vigilance and clear vision of the spirit. It is entirely a
matter between God and us, of which we breathe no word to others; and
when we meet our fellowmen there is a gladness on our face, and a
ringing joy-note in our voice, that greatly commend the gospel of our
Is there enough of this anointed head, and the face from which all marks
of tears have been removed, in our modern Christian life? How often we
make no effort to be happy, and make the best of things. We have had a
bad night, and have no scruple about imposing our miseries on a whole
breakfast table full. We have a great anxiety gnawing at our heart, and
we affect the appearance of bearing a heavy burden. I suppose there is
in all of us a longing to be the object of our friends' solicitude; and
there are times when we may freely unburden ourselves to get advice and
sympathy; but we have no right to add unduly to the sorrows and
anxieties of others, or to the travail of the world.
The life which is hid with Christ in God is a very radiant one, because
it hands over all its burdens and anxieties to the Father in secret, and
leaves them with Him. Thus it is at leisure from itself to enter into
the anxieties of others.
What the future rewards may be of
that inner life I do not care to speculate, and what the present rewards
are words fail to tell. The reward of the hypocrite is the gaping wonder
of spectators, who smile, criticise, and forget. The reward of the soul
that lives with God in secret consists not in thrones or crowns of gold,
but in a growing sense of nearness, of affinity, and of mutual
understanding, which issue also in a growing likeness, though the saint
knows not that His face shines. (From F. B. Meyer. The Directory of the