3-5-17 No Fake Giving or Living

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Matthew 6:1-4; “No Fake Giving or Living”  Sermon by Dr. J. Ben Sloan

     There is a lot of talk about fake news these days on both the left and the right and in between.  It is hard to know who to trust.  Two mainline anchors took the plunge for allowing fake news.  Dan Rather allowed fake manuscripts to surface about George Bush’s time in the National Guard in 2004 and was forced to resign.  Brian Williams said he was under fire in a helicopter in Iraq but he was not.  If these two trusted news anchors had this view about truth what about the rest?  Many are not fired today for not telling the truth, or stretching it for a political end.  Social media’s ability to convey information- including fake news- has added to this.  This is the problem of Post-modernism where everything is true as long as your side wins.  In Post-Modernism tolerance is of utmost importance and truth is a sometimes welcomed casualty to tolerance.  In the past fake news was limited to The Globe or The National Inquirer and their reports on the Lizard Man in Bishopville, Bigfoot, and UFOs.  But there is a God in the heaven who doesn’t care about spin, or how many believe falsehood in order to garner votes.  In fact, God cares about holding honesty and sincerity together.   It is possible to do this. 
     Let me read The Message translation of our passage- I think it makes this point even clearer:
Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.

2-4 “When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—‘playactors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.

I. GIVE TO THE NEEDY- (2)- Jesus assumes we will give to the needy.  He didn’t say why to do it here- He just says, “When you give to the needy.” In the Greek and Roman pagan world people would give to public projects but they didn’t just give to their faith or to the needy.  One of the things you will hear in Missions month is about the growing needy of our area.  As our population has grown, as our church has grown, so have the needy of our area grown.  SC has grown by 1 million since 2000.  Just four years ago when we started our Snackpacks- which is feeding really needy kids on the weekend so they will have something to eat when they go home- went from 11 children a week to 50.  We CARE’s food bank four years ago was open to just one half day a week- now it is three.  In the last five years We CARE has gone from giving 150,000 pounds of food a year to almost 250,000 pounds of food a year- a two thirds increase in just five years. 

II. GIVE WITHOUT ACTING- The world is not a stage for others to see your playacting. 
In our passage it speaks about giving and not announcing it with the blowing of trumpets.  The Romans did this when they gave bread or money to the poor- they would blow the trumpet for the poor to come and so everyone would see their beneficence.  There is an expression in our culture that comes from this verse- “Don’t toot your own horn.”  Jesus reminds us that God always looks at the heart- and just doing something for show is not the proper way to do something.  It should be so secret that we almost don’t know we’re doing it- don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.  In the book of Acts this was lived out when Annanias and Saphira pretended to give to the church but did not and were visibly punished for “lying to the Holy Spirit.”  You can lie to people, but don’t think you can lie to God.
    Robert Redford was walking in a hotel lobby one day and a fan came up and asked, “Are you the REAL Robert Redford?”  He said, “Only when I am alone.”  Get real with God.  You might as well He knows you better than you know yourself.

III. GIVE FOR GOD- Do not seek the applause of others- but seek the applause of God.  Some say you cannot hear God’s applause, but you hear it now through the Holy Spirit’s giving you.  Jesus said to not be like the hypocrite.  The word “Hypocrite” comes from the acting world.  It is putting on a show.  It is acting, pretending, meaning selfishness but pretending good.  In some ways, we are all hypocrites.  The secularists and skeptics who say that Christians are hyprocrites too easily miss the log in their own eye picking out the speck in ours.  What Jesus is saying is we need to have our hearts right, and have your giving be from your hearts.  He was not saying that you will never sin in this.  Jesus, of all people, knew we are sinners in our best and in our worst deeds.  Jesus was not saying don’t have standards because you can’t keep them fully- as some seem to say.  It is better to have standards like truth, integrity, honesty, and love and keep them say 80% than to just give up- or to say we have no standards at all- which many in our post-modern world are saying- and truth goes from 80% to 30%.  If you have no standards- you will be sure to keep them.  Jesus is saying to let God make you a better person- a changed person- a person of honesty and integrity.  A person who at least aims for truth and love and grace as opposed to someone who things truth, love and grace are impossible. 

    There is always a balance here.   On the one hand we want to be witnesses for Christ- letting our light shine.  But on the other hand we don’t want to be braggarts for Christ- bragging of the good we have done.  AB Simpson said, “We are to show when we are tempted to hide; and hide when we’re tempted to show.”  There are examples in scripture of people knowing what others gave- so Acts 5 speaks of Barnabas selling a field and giving it to the church.  So David lists the things he gave to the Temple. But do not brag, do not boast, do not Facebook or Instagram about it.  The glory for being able to give goes to God not yourself.  Jesus is reminding the people who were concerned about being a witness that the other side of this is giving, praying, and doing good with humility.  In Lent humility is especially emphasized. Being able to fake people out may be good on the football field or basketball court- but Christians are called to not be fake.   There are scam artists out there who set up fake charities.  The IRS lists of the dirty dozen has fake charities as number five.  These causes sound good, but they do not help the people they say they do.  For example Delaware Firefighters doesn’t help the firefighters- they help the people who raise the money- it is fake.  Habitat Boston builds few houses but makes money for that organization.  You can also scam yourself.  What mask are you wearing today?  Be sincere with yourself.  God wants you to give, but he wants your heart more than anything.  
      The Reformation started over the way we give.  The Pope was allowing the sale of indulgences to build St. Peter’s in Rome.  In Germany the monk, Tetzel, had a drum beat (much like the tooting of  a horn) and promised to forgive sins if you gave.  Luther rebelled.  Your giving is NOT to make the church budget.  Your giving is NOT a survey whether you like or dislike the sermon- that is control and manipulation.  Your giving is a survey of whether you love God- Give to His cause.  Give to Him who gave Himself for you.