THE SERMONS OF JESUS

THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

The "Hidden" Righteousness of the Kingdom

. INTRODUCTION

In Matt. 6:1-18 Jesus deals with the 3 pillars of Jewish piety. They are (1) __________________ (Matt. 6:2), (2) ________________________ (6:5), and (3) ____________________________ (6:16).

What warning does Jesus give us whenever we do give alms, pray, and fast (6:1)?


On the surface Jesus' warning seems to contradict His command for us to let our light shine before men (5:16). For example, is Jesus excluding public prayer? Does He mean we are to fast when nobody is around? Why does Jesus' warning in 6:1 NOT contradict Jesus' command in 5:16?


According to 6:2, 5, 16 does Jesus command us to give alms, pray, and fast?


What does the word "whenever" in these verses imply?


If I make a public show of giving alms, how am I actually treating the recipient of the alms? What does this public display reveal about my attitude towards the poor?



THE PILLAR OF ALMSGIVING

Almsgiving was considered one of the 3 pillars of Jewish piety. Not only did the Jews give to the poor, they set up a system in which they preserved the dignity of the poor as they gave them alms. For example there were 6 gates to the southern entrance to the Temple, 3 on the right and 3 on the left. The 3 right gates were for entering the Temple, while the 3 left gates were for exiting the Temple. The poor though went against the grain of the flow of traffic. They entered through the left gates and exited through the right. They were not doing this in order to cause trouble. Rather the fact that they went against the traffic indicated that they were poor without having to broadcast it. The Jews realized immediately that these were poor and therefore gave them alms without anybody having to make a big deal of it. In the same way we are to perserve the dignity of the poor as we give them alms.

According to Jesus how are we supposed NOT to give alms (6:2)?

What is the motive of hypocrites when they give out their alms publicly (6:2)?

God promises us that whenever we give alms, we will receive a reward. What kind of reward will the hypocrites receive (6:2)?


Jesus calls people "hypocrites" who give alms in order to be seen and honored by other people. Why does He call them hypocrits? In other words, what are they pretending is true about themselves and yet is not true?


Don't use this as an excuse for not giving alms. The point of this passage is NOT "Don't give alms." The point of the pasage is "As you give alms, do it so as not to be seen by other people." According to v. 3 how secretive are we to be whenever we give alms?


Whoever gives alms does receive a reward. The hypocrite receives his reward by receiving honor from other people. When people give alms in secret, what reward do they receive (6:4)?


THE PILLAR OF PRAYER (6:5-15)

According to Jesus what do the hypocrites do in order to be seen by other people (6:5)?

Why would the hypocrites stand at the corner of the street and not just somewhere else along the street? Why the corner?

On the other hand, in what way is the citizen of God's kingdom supposed to pray (6:6)?

God promises us that whenever we pray, we will have an audience. The question you and I have to answer is which audience do I want when I pray. What are the 2 possible audiences I can pray to?


In v. 7 Jesus commands us not to pray with meaningless repetitions. Yet elsewhere Jesus commands us to persevere in prayer. What's the difference between persevering in prayer and Jesus' command in v. 7?


What is the problem with praying with meaningless repetitions? What does this indicate about your relationship with God?


In oriental cultures people will write down a prayer on a piece of paper and attach it to a prayer wheel which turns around and around as the wind blows it. The belief is that each time the wheel turns around, the prayer is lifted up to the gods. The more it turns around and around, the more times the prayer is heard by the gods.


According to v. 8 why is it unnecessary to offer up meaningless repetitions to God?


Verses 9-13 present to us the Lord's Prayer. Because we studied this in detail earlier this year, we will skip over it. Yet of all the different elements in the Lord's prayer, which is the only one Jesus emphasizes in verses 14-15?


Why does Jesus emphasize the element of forgiveness? Go back and read Matt. 5:23-24 and see if this sheds light on the importance of this element.



THE PILLAR OF FASTING (6:16-18)

Whereas Christians regularly engage in prayer and almsgiving, fasting is one of the most neglected of the Christian disciplines. People who come from overseas to America call her "the Land of the Fat People." This is true not only of non-Christian Americans; it is also true of Christian Americans. Look at the people in the pews. Not many look like they have done much fasting in their lives.

What is the purpose of fasting? First, fasting does not make you a more spiritual person. Obedience and not fasting is the true measure of spirituality. Fasting, on the other hand, is to help you intensify your prayer life. People who fast can tell you that it just makes your prayers more intense. The person who fasts is more focused while praying.

Can you think of any time in the Bible when God's people fasted? What happened at the end of those periods of fasting?



In v. 16 Jesus once more uses the word "whenever": "Whenever you fast . . ." What does the word "whenever" imply in this context?


According to v. 16 how are we supposed NOT to fast?


On the other hand, according to v. 17 how are we supposed to fast?


When we fast, pray, and give alms in secret, what does the Father do in return?


Which of the beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-10) does this concept of "hidden" righteousness relate to? Why did you select this one?