Sermon On The Mount Devotional Blog 20

Sermon On The Mount Devotional

Motivation

Read Matthew 6:1-8; 16-18 (ESV)

“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.

And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Running. I think I have made my position clear in the past that, in my opinion, there are only two good reasons to run. First is if you are chasing after a ball and second is if you are being pursued by a ravenous beast. Seriously though, I am impressed by those who have the discipline to run, especially those who run great distances, such as marathons. What about those who combine running with biking and swimming? The Ironman competition is a triathlon that consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a marathon 26.22 mile run, raced in that order and without break. I heard on the news just the other day that there is a man who has made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for Ironman competitions. He made it in the Book of Records by racing thirty Ironman triathlons! That in and of itself is a great accomplishment but what got him into the Book was that he completed thirty in thirty days! Thirty Ironman competitions in thirty days! No rest for his body, no rebuilding after a tough day, but one right after the other, for thirty days! That is amazing! What a feat of physical strength and endurance. What lengths some are able to go to accomplish their goals! (From a previous blog post). What motivates you? If you run, what keeps you going on those long runs, those days when your body wants you to stop, but you keep going? Perhaps you compete and you want to win. Perhaps you compete against yourself, and you want to top you own personal best. What motivates you spiritually? Why do we do the things that we do? Going to church weekly, reading our Bibles, or spending time with people - what keeps us pursuing these things? 

In this next section of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:1-18, the Lord talks about motivation in three areas. First is in the area of giving to the needy. Second is in prayer. Third is in fasting. We will look at the issues of giving to the needy and fasting here and at prayer in the next devotional. 

In these sections Christ lays out some very clear things, in essence asking the questions: What we are to do? Why we are to do it? Why we are not to do it? What is our reward for doing these things with wrong motives? What is our reward for doing these things with right motives?

 Jesus starts this section with a warning, “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.”  Who is Christ’s audience and who is he warning? His audience is in essence two groups. The first audience are those Jews and Gentiles that He seeks to retrain, reclaim, and redeem. They have been lost and without a Shepherd, and the false shepherds they did have were giving them false teaching and false examples in so many areas. The second audience is the Pharisees. Christ is talking against the Pharisees who do all of their “acts of righteousness” in public, to be seen 

Christ is not saying don’t do your acts of righteousness in public. He is saying, “don’t do your acts of righteousness in public to be seen by men!” Our acts of righteousness are to be done in essence to please an audience of One: God the Father! This is because the purpose of these three examples that He gives (giving, praying and fasting) are rooted in knowing the Father better and serving Him for His glory, not in seeking acclaim or recognition.

Christ is not necessarily or primarily dealing here with the how of these deeds, the what of these deeds, or even the frequency of these deeds, but the why of these deeds. There is an assumption that these spiritual disciplines will and should be done. Christ is here dealing with our motivation. What is to be our motivation for why we do these acts of righteousness?

Christ deals first with giving. In the culture of Jesus’s time, there were those who would hire trumpeters to announce when an act of service was being done. So, they served to be recognized. Why do we serve? Service for service sake is only temporary and short lived even if it benefits someone. Ultimately service is to bring God glory. We serve to alleviate suffering, pain, and poverty with the higher goal that this may give opportunity for this person to know Christ. We support missionaries who serve so that they might be able to share Jesus. Service without sharing Christ is earthly and temporal. It has earthly value but not eternal value. We do care about injustice and suffering in the world.

In the next section or passage 6:5-15 Jesus deals with prayer. Because the next devotional will deal with this topic I will move on to the third topic, fasting. 

In Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus talks about fasting and self-denial. Why are we called to fast? To deny our bodies from what might for a time distract us from speaking and listening to God. We deny ourselves good things for a time to gain something better or the best thing: communion with the Father. We read of Christ fasting in Matthew 4: 2, “After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” Have you ever fasted? When the hunger pangs come, that is a reminder of our need and is a time to pray and focus on the Lord. Fasting does not just have to be from food. It can be from anything (good things) that might be put aside for a time to be able to focus more pointedly on God.  

So, What Now?

In each of these areas - giving, praying and fasting - motivation is important. First, do you give, pray, and fast? If you do, why do you do these things? If you don’t, why not? Wrestle with the Lord today, not to add more things to your spiritual “to-do” list, but so that you might first know Him better and, second, that we might make Him known.