We Must Choose Only One: Reward From Men or Reward From God (Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18)

September 1, 2013

Book: Matthew

We Must Choose Only One: Reward From Men or Reward From God (Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18)
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Sermon Notes

Giving to the Needy

1 “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.


5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 


16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Last time, chp 5 pt 2 – Jesus repeated 6 times “you have heard that…but I tell you…” He explained the true meaning of murder, adultery, oaths, retaliation, love for enemies.

Today, he repeats 3 times “I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full…”

  • See “reward”? It’s found 7 times. This is a kind of payment. Who can go to the office or school to work without payment.
  • See “hypocrite”? It’s found 3 times. 

In the study of chp. 6, the most serious question is: “What is the place of the reward in the Christian life?” 

Whenever Jesus speaks of the Last Day, he speaks of Reward and Punishment. 

A goodness that achieves no end is a meaningless goodness. The end of the bad man and the end of the good man cannot be one and the same. To remove all rewards and punishments = “In God there is no love nor justice.”

Rewards and punishments are NECESSARY in life and to show God.

  • Here are some to show Rewards.
  • Chp 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when people insult, persecute, curse you because of me… Great is your reward in heaven… If you love only those who love you, what reward will you get?”
  • Chp 10:10 “Anyone who receives a prophet because he’s a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward… If anyone gives a cup of water… he will never lose his reward…”
  • 1 Cor “He who plants and he who waters work on the same… but each will be rewarded for his work.”
  • Phil 3:14 “I press on toward the goal to gain the reward for which God has called me heavenward.”
  • Col 3:23-24 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord and not for men because you will receive your reward from the Lord.”
  • Hebrews 11:6 “Without faith, it is impossible to please God… he will reward those that honestly seek him. 
  • Rev 21:22 “Behold, I’m coming soon. My reward is in my hand and I will give to everybody according to what he has done.”
  • Hebrews 9:27? “Just as man is appointed once to die and after that to meet Judgment.”

We cannot escape Judgment – in that sentence it means Reward or Punishment. 

We will all receive a reward. What is important is “From Whom?” From men or God?

We must do our deeds secretly and check our motivation, not expecting a reward:

  1. Giving to the Needy
  2. Prayer
  3. Fasting

These should not be self-centered, but God-centered. Don’t make US look good, make GOD look God.

Matthew “Let you light shine before men that they might praise your Father in heaven.”

If we do good to make us look good, it’s no longer good. We must do good to make God look good so that good remains good.

We must apply this to every area of life. Jesus warns of hypocrisy – using religion to cover his sin. Hypocrisy = double-sin. 

In Greek, hypocrisy = actor (he wears a mask to pretend to be somebody he isn’t – to do something good only for the appearance). 

One thing Jesus dislike the MOST = hypocrisy.

True righteousness must come out from within. 

We know human weaknesses = we have the tendency to be influenced by what man sees and says MORE than by what the righteous God sees and thinks.

Alms giving, Prayer, Fasting = essential things in the Christian life. Jesus doesn’t say, “IF you give… IF you pray… IF you fast…”

He says, “WHENEVER…”

These are therefore very essential in the Christian life. The right kinds of giving, prayer, and fasting will have their own rewards from God. 

#1: Helping the Poor (v. 1-4)

Deut 15:11 “There will be poor people in the land, therefore I command you to be open handed toward them…”

Prov 19:17 “The one who is kind to the poor, lends to the Lord, so the Lord will reward him for what he has done.”

But, if we use alms giving to gain favor from God and/or attention from men, that’s hypocrisy. No amount of giving can purchase salvation. Salvation = FREE. 

Eph 2:8-9 “It is by the grace of God you have been saved, this not of yourselves, but of God…”

To live for the praise/applause of men = foolish. The glory, praise, attention of men = temporary.

1 Pet 4:29? “All men are like grass, flowers…all men fall and fade, but the Word of the Lord stands forever.”

If our motives = pure and pleasing, in love and praise to God, yes, we will give our gifts without calling attention to ourselves, and we will grow in faith, and God will be glorified and others will be helped.

But, if we give with the wrong motivations, we rob God of his blessing.

Is it wrong all the time for giving openly? Not always. The point = MOTIVATION. We cannot check our motivation too much before God. If we do something for the praise, attention, honor of men, we have received our reward already in full. 

  • For one thing, how many payments? ONE.
  • For one thing, how many rewards? ONE. Can’t get reward from men AND reward from God. Choose only ONE. 

2. Prayer (v. 5-8)

Do you pray? If NO, you’re not a Christian. 

“Prayer for the Christian is like breathing. There’s no life without it.”

Do you have your own prayer room? “Go in there, close the door…”

And when you pray… = 3 times repeated.

“Your Father KNOWS what you need before you ask him.” 

Christian’s life = praying life. 

Jesus gives us “right prayer” guidelines:

1. Pray in private BEFORE praying in public

(i.e. don’t reserve your prayers for public places only – get in the habit of praying privately). ALL men of God in the Bible prayed in private – SO, their public prayers became powerful and faithful before God. 

Do you pray privately, secretly, when nobody sees you? Public prayer without it = acting, a show.

2. Pray sincerely.

Repetition of the same word, same sentence = no problem, it can be an expression of strong, honest, eager petition. Even Jesus repeated his prayer before God in Gethsemane. 

The problem = babbling. The sound of a drunkard, a baby, a babbling stream. Empty words = nothing. (Martin Luther quote…?)

3. Pray continuously?

If we have a right relationship with God, his presence = safety, strength, encouragement. But, if we sin against him, his presence may be an irritation or burden. 

If we have a regular prayer life, and we know he knows what we need, then it encourages us to pray more. 

Prayer is not like sending an order paper to a supplier. It develops our intimate, personal relationship with God, who is a loving Father. He knows us all deeply, individually, privately. 

Prayer is not just talking before men, but before God, who knows the deepest secrets of our hearts. Prayer = living communication with God. 

God the Father knows the best for me. So, we can bring our prayer requests confidently to God. 

3. Fasting

Do you fast? Sometimes? (v. 16-18)

“WHEN you fast… do not look somber… they show men… BUT when you fast… it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting…” 

God is not mentioned as God, but as Father. The word Father is repeated 7 times here.

There will be a reward from God when we fast in the right way, with the right motivation, with the right purpose. Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights before starting his mission.

True fasting helps us to control/discipline our physical bodies and keep our spiritual priorities straight. 

Also, the Pharisees fasted twice a week. But they did it so other people would see them – to be praised “Woah~ you so holy~”

So, they gained their nicknames “hypocrites.”

We cannot check/test our motivation too much before God. Motivation is very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, sooooooooo important. 

Hypocrisy robs the Christian life. It robs us of character and gives us praise. 

We must not pray anything we do not mean from our deep hearts. Our motivations must be to please God alone – we must cultivate (cultivate = raise like plants, carefully, lovingly, diligently) our hearts in a secret place.

May God bless us all.

Colossians 3:23-24

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Keep this in your heart. Memorize and practice it.

Let us take 30 seconds individually to pray “Father, purify my motivation. Cleanse my intentions, cleanse my hidden parts that only you see.”