More Than Meets the Eye

Matthew 6:1, 3 “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. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

When I read this passage I do so superficially and to be honest we all do instinctively.  It is a defense mechanism to combat the cutting ways of the Word of God.  We read fast and shallow in order to keep conviction from penetrating into our hearts.  It’s the same reason we love checklists as they allow us to be robotic and methodical in our doing. This same mentality cause us to search out the “relevant” preacher. The heart is so clever as it knows just enough scripture to lead us astray. The ministers we love speaks to our needs. Our need to control our own lives with steps and how tos. Never will they say God alone; forever Jesus plus. All for the checklist to perform before others.  This chapter of the Gospel of Matthew is apart of the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus is building upon a message that starts with the “beatitudes”.  In verse 20 of Matthew 5, Jesus says that if our righteousness does not exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees we will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Now he starts with a warning of how we practice our righteousness.  He also ends chapter 5 with therefore we must be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.  Why do they do this? We think that we can do this by doing all of the beatitudes but Jesus is not giving us a prescription to follow.  Jesus’s sermon is descriptive of the type of righteousness of those that enter into the Kingdom of God.  The beatitudes are characteristics of the only person who can be all of them at once, Jesus Christ.  These characteristics are gifts given to those who look to Jesus for their righteousness.  So how knowing this important to the passage?  It establishes who the Pharisees were looking to for their righteousness but also their justification.
When we hear these words we take for granted their effects on our lives and it lessen the impact of the Gospel’s work in and around our lives.  When we immediately pack them away as religious and heavy theological words that we will deal with in heaven, we rob ourselves of true freedom.  Jesus warns the disciples of practicing their good deeds before people to be seen.  This is something the Pharisees did all the time but why?  We all know the answer to the question but since we refuse to admit to it, I will make it practical for all of us.
Reasons Why?
Why do we make sure our boss knows about the big project we completed on time?
Why do we insist to pick up the check at dinner when there is someone there we want to impress?
Why do we make sure our spouse knows when we do certain things they like?
Why do kids make sure their parents are aware of them completing chores?
Why do students want to be seen by teachers when they are doing something praise worthy?
So many of the things we do, we do for praise, for recognition, for rewards, for extra allowance, for gifts, for validation, for approval, for acceptance, for exaltation, to be seen in a favorable light, for our imagine, for fame, for public opinion and they all end in self-justification.  I know that this is how we define living a life in this world and we would never think in a million years that there was something wrong with it.  How Jesus feels about self-justification should not be a shock to us if we were paying attention to Matthew chapter 5.  Jesus reveals that it is the heart that sins and the actions are just fruits of the sin within.  When we do good, what is our motivation?  It makes you question how we view doing charity work, especially when you hear how people speak about it.  People always talk about how good it makes them feel.  They seem to always speak about the people they help in a condescending way, whether purposely or not. If our donations and time given is for the good of the people then why do we need a tax deduction or a photo op? We are the Pharisees doing their good deeds in the marketplace to be seen.  We are them as we profess how much we tithe and give to the church.  We are them when we proclaim Christ when there is an audience and live the opposite when no one is around.  We all know that there is something wrong with us and our heart as well as intentions.  We feel that we can do certain things and expect others to overlook or look the other way.  Its like the drug dealer giving out turkeys to the community that he destroys daily.  In our self-justification we really fear man more than God as our forgiveness, salvation, righteousness, and glorification rests in the world’s approval and not in the blood of Jesus Christ. In doing so we present our pridefulness as we know that we have faults and refuse to be humble.  We demand that people over look and give us what we want and we try to buy them off by good deeds or twisted reasoning.
The term “justify” in the scriptures can be defined as “justify, vindicate, treat as just, acquit, pronounce or treat as righteous, make or set free from”.Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Colin Brown. In plain terms to be justified by God is to be declared having moral right standing. It is not a position of innocence. It is a position of having righteousness attributed to me in spite of my guilt. In contrast, self-justification is the presumption of moral right standing on terms other than Gods as a way of hiding from ones own moral failure. It is the belief that whatever offenses may have been committed ought not to stand in the way of God’s granting approval. The psychology of self-justification is the internal process operating to accomplish that end.
Larry Barber, http://msc.gutenberg.edu/2001/02/the-psychology-of-self-justification/
The reason we get angry hearing that we are actually try to justify ourselves is because we actually refuse to confuse our sins and repent.  We actually want God to justify us on our own terms.  Plus if we are going to be justified we would whether earn it.  How dare God say that we can’t be good or righteous without him!  But mostly we rather man justify us because we can control men but not a God. In Chapter 5 of Matthew, Jesus gave a description of the righteous and then seal the deal with a strong statement to cut off all loop holes.  “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect”.  It is now absolutely impossible to get into the kingdom of Heaven.  In chapter 6 we have the comparison of how man thinks he will get into the kingdom.  The Pharisees are given the opportunity to have faith in God for their righteousness but their desire their own way because they had created a world they loved.  It is a world where they were equal to God because they elevated the law above the law giver.   The added laws to suit their wants and desires, they changed the Law that Jesus said would never pass away because God will never pass away.  This world is so broken and all the things in it that we trust in for making things right can’t be trusted.  We try to change our looks in order to be accepted.  We change our orientation in order to accept ourselves.  We change jobs in order to be accepted by family.  We chase fame to be seen as worthy.  We chase money to feel important.  We chase so much because the guilt of who we really are haunts us and we desperately try to have something to point to that will overshadow our faults. People promise us freedom if we have this or that.  We think that if we can justify ourselves by having this or that, achieving this goal or reaching that milestone we will have freedom.
2 Peter 2:19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity–for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”
We are slaves only adding more and more chains that we all refuse to believe that they are actually chains.  We don’t think that we are slaves yet our worlds crumble at every change of approval, success and failures.  Jesus’ Sermon of the Mount anchors the mirror right in front of us.  Jesus has given us the diagnosis and He is the cure.  Will we deny our sickness and turn back to the home remedies or in faith rest on grace given by the God who made you?  How important is it to us be god that we will try to gain the whole world and lose our souls?  We all want peace, love, happiness and joy and Jesus is all of that, as in Him we have all that we will ever need.  If you give children a mother and father that loves them unconditionally, you can put that family anywhere and the children will have peace.  But its when we think we know better than father that we demand our inheritance.  We want to earn our justification for being here. We want to make our own identity because we have to be more than what father says.  The world is calling and making empty promises to us.  The world doesn’t have any love in it because it has no idea what love is.  What we think is love in this world is actually a contract agreement with adjustable interest rates and every thirty seconds they are begging us to buy in.  The world’s is law and its law is much worse than the Father’s law.  The Father’s law comes with a clause that says in the event that we can’t live up to the terms (and we don’t), He will pay the penalties and fees (which have already been paid).  Our quest for self-justification is a proclamation of our hatred of true love and rich grace.  God is waiting for all of us who are prodigal sons and God is waiting for all of the older brothers who do good for selfish reasons.
Deuteronomy 9:5 Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
In our twisted hearts, when we hear that its not because we are awesome that God blesses we get angry.  We we are faced with the possibility that it really isn’t about us our pride is hurt.  We get no sense of relief when we find out that the self imposed pressure is not needed.   We shout want about all the good I do!  What use is it!  If we ever do anything good or righteous it is by God’s own hands working through us (James 1:16-18), as we have all been saved for His purposes to do His work (Ephesians 2:10). This was about of His promises. In that promise God made was the coming of Jesus and God’s people for His own possession. In that promise is the body of Christ; the church. God choose the weakest nation to make His glory known. It is the weakest people that run to God for grace. It calms my soul to hear how faithful God is to His promises. How dare I think that I can control God by deeds or sins. What type of extraterrestrial love is this! Why would I disregard such a love that sees my needs before everything. A love that never stops, even when I’m at my worst which is all the time. This world will never know love like this, unless they hear the Gospel.

 

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