When we grasp our relationship with God as our Father and rest securely in His care and love, it will change what we do and why we do it.
We will not be looking for the approval of men but only of God, and there is where we receive the greatest reward that isn’t lost because it is done out of love for our Father in Heaven, and He has seen it, and He will reward us.
“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.
2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Our passage starts off with a warning—beware—it’s in the present imperative, so it tells us to be on guard and watch out for this danger continually we have as believers of practicing our righteous deeds out of the wrong motivation.
As those citizens of the kingdom, we are reminded again and again in Jesus’s sermon that God is seeking the heart. Our lives are to reflect holiness that is inward and outward. When we are in Christ, we will desire to do righteous deeds. James reminds us that faith without works is dead.
In Matthew 6:1, Jesus doesn’t tell us not to practice righteous deeds, He doesn’t just tell us not to do righteous deeds before men, but he goes further and tells us not to do them to be “seen by them.”
It comes back to our motives.
Sinclair Ferguson reminds us:
“Why we do something is significant as well as what we do.”
Our lifestyle should not be one of practicing our righteousness before others. If we do this, they’re not righteous acts anymore; they’ve now become self-righteous acts.
Martyn Lloyd Jones stated:
“Ultimately, our only reason for pleasing men around us is that we may please ourselves. Our real desire is not to please others as such; we want to please them because we know that, if we do, they will think better of us. In other words, we are pleasing ourselves and are merely concerned about self-gratification.”
Listen to the Podcast Below:
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Martyn Lloyd Jones
The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom by R. Kent Hughes
The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn
Six Keys to the Treasure Principle @Randy Alcorn
Should Christians be Motivated by Eternal Rewards? @Grace to You
Show Notes:There is no reward from God to those who seek it from men. ~ Charles Spurgeon
“Here is the life to which we are called, and I maintain again that if only every Christian in the Church today were living the Sermon on the Mount, the great revival for which we are praying and longing would already have started. Amazing and astounding things would happen; the world would be shocked, and men and women would be drawn and attracted to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
~ Martyn Lloyd Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount
“Why we do something is significant as well as what we do.
Jesus also clears away another general misconception by what he says here. The principle he expounds in Matthew 6:1 is illustrated in three different ways:
giving (Matthew 6:2-4), praying (6:5-15), and fasting (6:16-18). He indicates in what he says about each of these activities that sacrifice, self-discipline, and self-denial are called for in the Christian life. He assumes our lives will be well regulated, properly structured, and that we will show an increasing mastery of our own desires. Jesus does not assume that these things will come naturally. Rather he sees them as quite deliberate activities in the life of his disciples.”
~ Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount
Ultimately our only reason for pleasing men around us is that we may please ourselves. Our real desire is not to please others as such; we want to please them because we know that, if we do, they will think better of us. In other words, we are pleasing ourselves and are merely concerned about self-gratification.
~ Martyn Lloyd Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount
You cannot expect to be paid twice, if therefore you take your reward in the applause of men, who give you a high character for generosity, you cannot expect to have any reward from God. We ought to have a single eye to God’s accepting what we give, and to have little or no thought of what man may say concerning our charitable gifts.
~ Charles Spurgeon
The rewards we gain in heaven are not like the rewards we earn here on earth. We tend to think in material terms—mansions, jewels, etc. But these things are only representations of the true rewards we will gain in heaven. A child who wins a spelling bee treasures the trophy he receives not for the sake of the trophy itself but for what that trophy means. Likewise, any rewards or honor we gain in heaven will be precious to us because they carry the weight and meaning of our relationship with God—and because they remind us of what He did through us on earth.
In this way, rewards in heaven glorify God and provide us with joy, peace, and wonder as we consider God’s work in us and through us. The closer we were to God during this life, the more centered on Him and aware of Him, the more dependent on Him, the more desperate for His mercy, the more there will be to celebrate.
Regarding this matter of rewards, we are in error if we believe we must never seek rewards. Some think that serving with an eye to a reward is crass and mercenary, even when the reward comes from God. Why not give just to give? Such a view comes from a mistaken understanding. The rewards that God gives are not ribbons or medals but actually something of himself. C. S. Lewis explained it perfectly:
We must not be troubled by unbelievers when they say that this promise of reward makes the Christian life a mercenary affair. There are different kinds of reward. There is the reward which has no natural connexion with the things you do to earn it and is quite foreign to the desires that ought to accompany those things. Money is not the natural reward of love; that is why we call a man a mercenary if he marries a woman for the sake of her money. But marriage is the proper reward for a real lover, and he is not mercenary for desiring it. . . . The proper rewards are not simply tacked on to the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation.2
Men who do works so they will be seen by men receive the applause of men. Those who do works for God’s glory receive God’s smile. The reward for the latter is overwhelming—and always will be.
Nothing we do will be forgotten by our Lord.
~ R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount
The best part of all Christian work is that part which only God sees. ~ Andrew Bonar
- Matthew 6:1-4
- Matthew 6:5-15
- Matthew 6:16-18
- Matthew 25:35-40
- Matthew 25:23
- James 2:17
- Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Martyn Lloyd Jones
- Sermon on the Mount The: Matthew 5-7 Expositional Commentary by James Montgomery Boice
- Matthew 1-7 MacArthur New Testament Commentary by John MacArthur
- Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Matthew by J.C. Ryle
- The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom (ESV Edition) by R. Kent Hughes
- Sermon on the Mount by Sinclair Ferguson
- The Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12 by Thomas Watson
- The Message of the Sermon on the Mount by John Stott
- Sermon on the Mount Teaching Series by Sinclair Ferguson at Ligonier Connect
- Logos Bible Software
- Bible Memory App
- Study Guide for Sermon on the Mount