Pastors, Bible Study Leaders, Educators:
Would you give me a few minutes of your reading time?
Briefly explore a sample lesson of a new Christ-centered, Bible study, The Life of Christ. This 54 week study will enrich the spiritual life of your congregation. It offers a wide variety of great resources and visual aids from the Internet. Thank you for your time and thoughtful consideration.
Blessings to you this day.
Ed Markquart, Author of this website.
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Don't Show Off Your Faith
you and peace from God our Father ...
And our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
The title of the sermon today, for all of you in grades 5 through 9
is "Catch It If You Can"
So write that in the space marked title. "Catch It If You Can." The text is from Matthew 6:
1-9, 16-18. Write down the theme in your notes: “Do not show be
religious ‘show offs.’”
Today, we continue our series of dialogue sermons on the Sermon on
the Mount. This is the sixth of twelve sermons in this series. We
recall that Jesus had been with crowd of people on the shores of
Lake Galilee. Jesus left that crowd on the lakeshore and invited his
disciples up into the high hillsides that overlooked the lake. Jesus
then sat down with his disciples (not the crowd) and taught his true
disciples, not basic doctrines, but a new moral code, a new sense of
right and wrong for their daily lives.
going up on his
mountain and was giving his
new moral code, his
new moral laws, for his new religion. The Old Testament laws for
murder, adultery, divorce, anger and retaliation were no longer
valid for his new religion for his new disciples. Thirteen hundred
years before Jesus, Moses had gone up to Mount Sinai and had
received the Ten Commandments, but the Old Testament moral law was
no longer sufficient for New Testament Christians. In the Sermon on
the Mount, Jesus is giving us a new moral code for his new disciples
for new way of life.
look at your bulletin insert. Highlight or underline, “beware of
practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them.”
This is the issue: people were being religious in order to be see
and praised. Highlight the phrase, “so they may be praised by
others.” People wanted their religiosity to be seen in order to
receive affirmation and glory. Underline the phrase, “do not let
your right hand know what your left hand is doing.” This is an
Aramaic phrase, an Aramaic colloquialism, that means, “keep it
secret.” Highlight the phrase, “your alms are to be done in
secret and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Regarding almsgiving, prayer and fasting, all are to be done in
secret so that your heavenly Father, who sees in secret, will reward
you. Jesus taught that
we are not to show off goodness but keep it private.
Pharisees of Jesus’ day were showing off their religiosity. They
would make a big public display of their prayer life, their
almsgiving to the poor, their fasting by covering themselves with
ashes and looking miserable. The Pharisees were show offs.
taught his new disciples, “Do not worry about the praise and
admiration you will receive from other people for your acts of
kindness. If you do acts of kindness and generosity in order to
receive honor and glory, then you will have already received your reward. Instead, be secretive as you give
and walk a life of faith, and God, your father, will reward you.”
As we continue this sermon, we need to look at the historical
context of this teaching which was the Jewish synagogue. Jesus is
referring to some of the common practices of Jewish temple religion.
We find that there are three pillars of the Jewish faith in
Jesus time. Three
activities that every dedicated Jewish person would be involved in.
They are, almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.
Write that down, kids. If you were a devout Jew in Jesus
time, you would be faithful in all three of these.
These were the pillars of the faith, almsgiving,
prayer, and fasting. So Ed, what exactly is almsgiving.
Almsgiving is giving to the poor. Write that down, kids. We, as
religious people past and present, are concern about our financial
offerings to help the poor and needy. Giving of alms in New
Testament times is giving financial gifts at the synagogue, on the
streets to beggars, and to other needy people. The word, almsgiving,
comes from the same Hebrew word for “righteous.” In the Old
Testament, “giving of alms” and “being righteous” use the
same Hebrew word.
next important activity of the Jewish religion is prayer.
The devout Jew is a person of prayer.
Now we are not talking about the prayer you and I think of
when we think of prayer. Not
the quiet personal prayers we say when we do our personal devotions
or at the dinner table or at night before we go to sleep or silent
prayers. No, these
prayers of the devout Jew are much more visible and audible.
First you need the proper clothing like this prayer shall
here. You put it over
your shoulders, place your kepa on your head, assume the proper
posture, rock back and forth and chant your prayers out loud.
(John demonstrates this with the prayer shawl and kepa) When
you saw this going on, you knew that this was a devout person in
prayer. In other words, these people could draw attention to
themselves that they were fasting.
The next pillar is fasting. For the Jew, fasting was to abstain from
eating, drinking, bathing, anointing one’s self with oil and
having sexual intercourse. For the Jews, there was one national day
of compulsorily fasting and that was the Day of Atonement. The Jews
also developed habits of personal fasting e.g. not combing their
hair, covering their faces with ashes, and wearing old clothing. In
other words, these people could draw attention to themselves that
they were fasting.
Another important word in the text today is "Hypocrite." "Don't do these things like the hypocrites do.
Don't be like the hypocrites."
The word for hypocrite is the same word for
hypocrite is an actor. One
who acts religious -- who does all the outward signs and actions of
his or her religion but doesn't necessarily have the proper inner
hypocrite is an actor -- a religious actor.
So the attitude of the heart becomes very important at this point. It is the heart that motivates. All three acts of piety can
easily be transformed to be acts of self glorification. All three
acts of piety can be done not
to glorify God but to glorify one’s self.
The issue becomes one of motive. Many pious and devout Jews
were doing the right thing but for the wrong motive. There is always
the temptation for religious people to demonstrate their religiosity
in order to receive praise, affirmation, and applause.
It seems, that Jesus here in this text is trying to inspire his
disciples to live a life of non-public, hidden, secret, prayer
devotion and giving. This
is not to be a show but an outpouring of love from the heart.
How about some real-life examples of this from our lives today. What
do we mean here?
I remember this elderly couple from years ago. Their names were
Oscar and Myrtle Ringdal. Myrtle Ringdal had Alzheimer's and
didn’t even know Oscar any more but he continued to go to the
nursing home to visit and help feed her several times a week.
He talked affectionately about how she was like a little bird
and opened her mouth so he could feed her.
He didn’t do it for some kind of outward reward.
He did it out of the love and devotion that was deep in his
For example, I heard a story the other day at the Senior’s Retreat
over at the coast. It was a story from years ago about Don Binder
who died much too young of bone cancer. Don was fighting bone cancer
when Aiden O’Dell found out that he had prostate cancer. Don, as
sick as he was, came over to Aiden’s house for six weeks, every
day, to play cribbage with Aiden, as Aden began is treatments for
cancer. Nobody knew about it. Don just came over and took care of
The purpose of the text, then, is to inspire us to give and act out
of our hearts, secretly without any expectation of reward. When
Jesus Christ lives in our hearts, our acts of charity, devotion, and
love are real and not phony. They
are genuine not fake. They
come from unselfish motives with no expectation of any external
I have some favorite “pastor stories” that illustrate this
teaching of Jesus that we are to give and pray in secret.
John tell the story that
you told me about the coal.
A man moved into the small town and bought a little house across the
street from the railroad tracks.
Every morning he noticed an elderly lady walking along the
tracks picking up something and putting it into a bag that she
carried. The man got
curious about this lady and so he went to the corner "Mom &
Pop" grocery story that had been there forever and asked the
owner about this lady. "Oh, that's the widow Jacobs.
Every day she comes half way across town to pick up the coal
that is spilled on the tracks when the early morning train runs
through town." "But
there hasn't been a steam locomotive using coal on these tracks for
years," replied the new resident.
"That's right," said the store owner.
"When the steam train stopped running, old Mr. Simpson
who runs the hardware store was concerned that the Widow Jacobs
would no longer have coal to heat and cook with.
He knew she was too proud to take charity, so he decided to
get up early every morning, take a bag of coal and drop it along the
tracks. The Widow
Jacobs still thinks the steam train runs by here every morning.
I think Old Mr. Simpson has been doing that for about 5 years
now. Ed, tell that story about the miser. I really liked that one.
“There was a rich Jew who never gave alms to the poor or
contributed to charitable causes. People in his small village never
called him by name. They simply referred to him as The Miser.
day, a beggar came to the door of The Miser. “Where to you come
from?” The Miser asked.
live in the village,” answered the beggar.
cried the Miser. “Everyone in this village knows that I do not
that same village, there lived a poor shoemaker. He was a most
generous man who responded to every person in need and every
charitable cause that was brought to his attention. No one was ever
turned away empty-handed from his door.
day The Miser died. The
village leaders decided to bury him on the edge of the cemetery. No
one mourned his passing. No one followed the funeral procession to
the place of burial.
the days passed, the rabbi heard disturbing news regarding the
shoemaker. “He no longer gives alms to the beggars,” complained
one man. “He has refused every charity that has approached him,”
anyone asked about his change?” inquired the rabbi?
replied the first man. “He says that he no longer has money to
the rabbi called on the shoemaker. “Why have you suddenly ceased
giving money to worthy causes?”
the shoemaker began to speak. “Many years ago, the man who called
The Miser came to me with a huge sum of money and asked me to
distribute it to beggars and charities. He made me promise that I
would not reveal the source of the money until after he died. Once
every month he would visit me secretly and give me additional money
to distribute. I became known as a great benefactor even though I
never spent a penny of my own money. I am surprised that no one
questioned me earlier. How could anyone who earned the wages of a
shoemaker give away as much money as I have all these years?”
rabbi called all the villagers together and told them the story.
“The Miser has lived by the Scriptures, keeping his charity a
secret,” the rabbi told them. Then they all walked to the grave of
The Miser and prayed. Before the rabbi died, he asked to be buried
near the fence, next to the grave of the man known as The Miser.”
is a great story. But it
seems that there is a tension for us. Let me explain.
Every time we do a baptism we light a candle for the person
that has been baptized and quote the Bible verse that says,
"Let your light so shine before others that they may see your
good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
It does say, "Give glory not to you but to your Father
in heaven. So maybe
there's not such a tension here after all. It does say here to let
others see our good works. Our
motive is not to glorify ourselves but tomake sure we glorify God.
wants us to let our lights shine that others might see our good
works of love, but we are not be show off our works of love. We can
sense it when someone is carefully showing with with their
kindnesses towards other. They let it slip that they are generous
and loving people in such a way as to bring glory to themselves.
is: why are you doing this act of kindness. Because somebody needs
it or to bring glory to youself.
somebody needs it. I like that story about Bill Manderville who
takes such wonderful care of his wife Barbie who has Parkinson’s
and severe athritus, so much so that she rides around in her
motorized cart. One day, when a friend complimented Bill on the
quality of his compassion for his wife, Bill dismissed it. “You do
what you need to do. Nothing big about that. That is the way it was
during the battles of World War II. You would just do the job in
front of you. Someone later, down the line, would say that such a
deed was an act of heroism. But not to the guy doing it. He was just
doing his job. Doing what needed to be done. Not for glory. He
didn’t do it in order to be a hero.”
good. You don’t do things in order to be a hero or receive praise,
but just because the person in front of you needs love. That’s
what it is all about.
John, what about the young people?
What about the children?
As a parent, I want our children to catch the vision of this
kind of love and live it out.
The way I see it we do
that by teaching our children about caring for the poor and giving a
percentage of their allowance for that.
We teach them to pray and night when they go to bed and
before each meal. We
teach them the importance of going to church, Sunday School and
somewhere along the line the Holy Spirit takes over and they begin
to do it just because they can't imagine it any other way.
When the Holy Spirit creates faith in them they begin to do
these good works simply
because it is in their hearts to do so.
It's not premeditated or calculated.
It's just a part of who they are.
They don't expect any external reward or payback.
They just do it. That's
the vision we want our children to catch.
That's definitely the vision we want our children to catch.
Catch it if you can.
is the vision we want everyone
here at Grace to catch.
catch it if you can.