HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, May 29, 2022
Youtube link... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8EDEbEyeQU
Teaching Series - “Doing Life with Jesus"
Weekly Topic - “Motivation for Doing Good Matters”
Texts – Matthew 6:1-18; 2 Corinthians 9:5-15
Have you ever noticed how difficult it can be these days to do something nice for another, especially strangers, without having your motives questioned? People automatically assume you have an agenda. Earlier this year, when we had been handing out drinks and cookies for a couple of weeks to the high school students at CCI, I had one of the students ask, “What’s in it for you?” To which I off-the-cuff remarked… ‘A lot of work!’ This student couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that we would choose to show kindness for the sake of kindness.
Just last month, I was making my rounds of the neighbourhood distributing Easter Eggs as part of our ‘Good Neighbour’ initiatives, when one of our neighbours remarked, “You don’t have to give us anything. We don’t need these.” To which I replied with a question, “Nobody needs them, but have the things I dropped off ever encouraged you or brought a smile to your face?” When she confirmed that they had, I assured her that was the only payoff I was looking for. People are not accustomed to people doing good deeds for the simple purpose of doing good and have become increasingly suspicious of motivations even of those who claim to be followers of Christ. But they have good reason to!
Doing ‘good deeds’ from ulterior motives is nothing new and in fact is a major subject within Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
DON’T BE A HYPOCRITE…MOTIVATION MATTERS
Matthew 6:1-4, NLT
“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. 2 When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. 3 But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4 Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”
Over the past two years, Hope Chapel has been making efforts to serve our community which has taken different forms…the distribution of little tokens for encouragement to our neighbours, the lunch program for the high school students, our partnership with Youth Unlimited in the creation of the Community Cupboard for supplying people in need of food, clothing, toiletries and cleaning supplies, as well as our seasonal ‘Giving Tree.’ These efforts have garnered us some attention from those outside the church. The neighbours have been talking, which resulted in an interview with Collingwood Today. Our Facebook posts have been shared, resulting in the interest by our denominational leadership. Ministers of the Georgian Triangle Ministerial were invited to partner with us in our high school lunch program and as a result, we now have six newly built picnic tables just waiting to dry out in order to be painted and set out front to create more relational space for the community.
The increased exposure has resulted in a genuine curiosity and opened the doors of opportunity to share about the things we’re doing and the reasons why. We have not set out to draw attention to ourselves, but to discover what God’s plan is, to follow it and God has taken care of the publicity. God is doing some amazing things in our little building in our community. But here’s some questions for us this morning.
· What do you think would have been the result if we had worked to promote ‘us?’
· What would become of our current efforts if we decided to take credit?
· We might still earn some respect by people, but would our efforts warrant God’s approval and support? Not according to Jesus!
Our good deeds, whether as a corporate body or individually, must never be done to draw attention to ourselves. And while we may not go around ‘blowing trumpets,’ are we ever guilty of trying to manipulate a situation, through the guise of an act of generosity, so that others will think well of us?
What are some of ways we can ‘blow our own horn?’ We might talk about our accomplishments incessantly. A photo-op might be arranged so that a good deed doesn’t go unnoticed…often the go-to for would-be political candidates.
Those are obvious examples, but how else can wrong motivations show up? Do we resent the absence of a ‘thank you’ after we’ve extended ourselves for another? Do we require a plaque with our name on it for a sizable donation? As the Church, do we do good and/or organize events simply to get ‘more bums in the pew?’ If so, Jesus has one word for us…hypocrite!
If we are simply calling attention to ourselves for our own benefit rather than doing our good deeds so that others will take notice of our God who prompts us to do the good that we do, we are on the wrong track. Jesus calls this behaviour out as hypocritical. Why? Because it isn’t for God. It isn’t a true reflection of the character of generosity expressed outwardly. It is at its core generated through selfish motivations and is therefore, hypocritical. God knows why we do what we do. Pretending to have an altruistic motivation may fool some, but it will never fool God. Any reward we receive for our ‘good deeds’ done with wrong motivations may result in a good-standing with people, but not God. We will get our reward, but it will not last.
Jesus made it clear. God is far more interested in having our outward behaviours being a true reflection of our inner character, than of us just perfecting a con-job. He doesn’t want us to just
‘look’ and ‘act’ like followers of Jesus…he wants us to ‘be’ wholly committed children of his. And this doesn’t just apply to our good deeds, but also to the ways in which we relate to God.
PRAYING & FASTING ARE PRIVATE MATTERS
Matthew 6:5-18, NLT
5 “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
7 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. 8 Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! 9 Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
10 May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today the food we need,
12 and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
13 And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.
14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
16 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. 17 But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. 18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”
The reward you seek is the reward you will gain. If you seek to gain the approval of people you may win the applause of others, but there will be no reward from God. Whereas, even if no one but God is aware of your devotion, he will see and reward you.
Spiritual disciplines—like prayer and fasting—only help us to grow in our relationship with God when they are done in the right way. Jesus encourages his audience to pray privately rather than to make a display of their piety…and long windedness. Does this mean that it is wrong to pray in public? No. But it does mean that when we do so, we have to remember to focus on the one we are praying to and not those who are listening in on the conversation. It is good to pray with others, but to do so humbly, taking care to remember who is to be the focus…not those praying, but God who we are praying to.
When we pray and when we fast, Jesus gives three specific directions:
· Don’t do it for show – Many people feel they can’t pray in public because they don’t know how to do it. But, too often, this assumption is based on having heard others pray very practiced and sometimes showy prayers. How ‘well’ you pray is not about length, spiritual sounding words or even ease of speech. Your prayers should be a reflection of you and your relationship with God.
Now, I know that many of you are not comfortable praying in public and this is not a condemnation…you can still pray with someone without being the one to do the actual speaking. But never let another’s prayers deter you from growing in your prayer life with our Father. And if by chance you are one who takes pride in your prayer life compared to others, be careful or you may find your prayers unheard.
As to fasting, again, Jesus says this is to be a private matter between you and God. What is fasting? Traditionally, as here in Jesus’ teaching, fasting was choosing not to eat food in order to have more time to devote to God; these days, I think we could also include fasting from other time-consuming pursuits like television watching, social media, internet gaming (maybe even certain sporting pursuits)…whatever consumes your day and should be made a lesser priority than spending time with God. Jesus makes it clear that whatever is fasted from should not draw attention to the one fasting. Again, this does not mean that a group of people cannot fast together, but it is never to be undertaken as a means of gaining spiritual one-upmanship, to convince others of one’s piety or to gain people’s approval.
· Prayer should never be mindless repetition…when you talk with God, engage your brain! Jesus told people not to engage in babble and the repetition of words when they pray. Unfortunately, anytime we pray by rote we are in danger of doing so. In the Christian Church, Protestants have long denigrated Catholics for saying ‘Hail, Marys,’ but I would challenge us today that any prayer, including the Lord’s Prayer, can become meaningless words when we forget to speak them anew to God and not just as a jumble of words we have memorized that flow naturally from our mouths without having to think about what we’re saying.
As a teen, my father would often ask the blessing over our food; but it got to the point that it was obviously just a routine not heartfelt thanksgiving when we had all memorized his ‘grace’ and could have finished saying it for him. That’s not a judgment of my father, but rather a reminder of how easily we can fall into this sort of ‘praying’ which is really not praying at all.
· We cannot receive what we are unwilling to give – Notice verses 14-15. What does Jesus make crystal clear? We will be forgiven when we forgive others; however, if we refuse to forgive another, we will not be forgiven. This does not mean that forgiveness is easy or that we cannot struggle to do so. It is the outright refusal to forgive that Jesus said will rob us of this same gift.
Further to this idea of giving with generosity and a right attitude, there is a real-life example found in the book of 2 Corinthians 9. The Jerusalem Church had found itself in real trouble. There had been a famine and many of the poorer Jerusalem believers were in need of financial help. The church in Corinth was eager to participate, but a year later before the money was collected, Paul thought it wise to send a reminder. He wanted to make certain that they had actually followed through with their initial enthusiastic commitment.
LET ALL YOU DO SHOWCASE GOD’S GRACIOUSNESS
2 Corinthians 9:5-15, NLT
5 “I thought I should send these brothers ahead of me to make sure the gift you promised is ready. But I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly.
6 Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 9 As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”
10 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 12 So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.
13 As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. 14 And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. 15 Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!”
How does Paul encourage the Corinthian Church to give and what does he say will be the result? All of our good deeds should be done willingly, as well as cheerfully and should cause others to give glory to God. As followers of Jesus, how we live our lives should point others to the One we serve, never back at ourselves.
· God is not merely concerned with our behaviour, but much more so with our inner motivations.
· When we seek the approval of people, we may achieve it, but it will not bring God’s approval.
· Don’t make light of the privilege of prayer. When we pray, we are talking to the God of the universe, our Sovereign and heavenly Father. Be sincere, be honest, be humble.
· We should never assume that we are entitled to God’s gifts of grace, mercy and forgiveness when we refuse to extend them to others.
· As followers of Jesus, it is our job to point others to God and not back at ourselves.
Sunday, June 5, 2022 – 2022 Theme - “Doing Life with Jesus – What Masters You?” – In-person and Online
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church) "Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!