Greatest Sermon in History Part 13
Doing the Right Thing the Right Way
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
May 2, 2004
Matthew 6:1-4 (NLT)
Serena Williams won the Wimbledon Tennis
tournament for the first time in 2002. And after the victory, a
reporter asked her if she was upset that some of the English spectators
were rooting against her. And she told him, no, she had had people
cheering against her all her life. She wanted to win for herself. Then
she added, “Besides, my dad was sitting in those stands and I knew that
he was rooting for me, and I wanted to please him.” (illustration from
We’ve reached a section in the Sermon on the Mount… the Greatest Sermon
in History… where Jesus encourages the people to perform for an
Audience of One. It doesn’t matter what others think of you, because
there will always be some who are cheering for you and some who are
cheering against you, but God the Father… the Audience of One… is
always on your side. And He’s rooting for you. And ultimately, it’s His
opinion that matters.
Starting in Matthew 6:1 and going all the way down to verse 18, Jesus
instructs us to do the good things we do not for the approval of
others, but for the approval of God. Specifically, He talks about when
we give money to the needy, and when we pray, and when we fast. And He
tells us that when we do these things we should be willing to do them
whether anyone else ever finds out about it or not. John Ortberg,
“I know I’m supposed to be humble, but what if nobody notices?”
~ John Ortberg
Jesus is saying, it shouldn’t matter if anybody notices. Do what you do
for God, not for the approval of others. And He adds that a great way
to make sure that what you’re doing is for God is to do it in secret.
So with that in mind, let me give you the secrecy test this morning.
Three questions, based on the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:1-18.
Secrecy Test: (from Bill Hybels)
A. How much money would you give
Kingdom causes if the only one who knew about it was God?
If you didn’t receive a tax receipt and if
you weren’t worried about your spouse thinking you were cheap and you
weren’t worried about your kids growing up to think you weren’t
generous… how much would you give? If no one else ever noticed that you
put money in the offering box or that you gave to someone in need,
would you still do it?
B. How often would you pray if no
one else but God was keeping track?
Would prayer be that important to you if you
couldn’t use your fancy words in front of everyone to gain their
approval? How much do you pray when there’s no one there but God?
C. How important would fasting be
in your spiritual development if no one but God knew you were fasting?
Now let me explain something here, because
this isn’t so common today. In Jesus day, the religious leaders, in an
attempt to show how spiritual they were, would go without food for long
periods of time. That’s fasting. Believe me, fasting can be a wonderful
thing. We’re going to talk about it in a few weeks. But the thing with
these religious leaders was that when they would fast they wouldn’t
shave, they wouldn’t wash their hair, they wouldn’t change their
clothes… all in an attempt to let everyone know they were fasting so
others would look and marvel at how spiritual they were. So people
would look and say, “Wow, there goes Joe. He looks terrible… like he’s
been dragged behind a pickup truck. He must be fasting. What a mature,
spiritual, Godly person.”
So Jesus steps on the scene and asks them how committed they would be,
and how committed you would be to fasting if the only one who ever knew
about it was God?
Those three questions cover what Jesus
talked about in Matthew 6:1-18. We’re going to get to the sections
about prayer and fasting in the weeks to come, but this morning we’re
going to focus on the first four verses. In these verses, Jesus
instructs us on how to do our good deeds, such as giving of our
resources, in a way that honours Him. So we’re going to look at those
four verses and draw out of them Four Keys to Doing the Right Thing the
Doing the Right Thing the Right Way:
1. Do your good deeds to please
Matthew 6:1 (NLT)
“Take care! Don't do your good deeds
publicly, to be admired, because then you will lose the reward from
your Father in heaven.”
Pop quiz. I’m going to ask you a series of 10 questions and you tell me
what you think the answers are.
[Pattern for all the questions: If you work for _____________, where
does your paycheque come from?]
Nike selling shoes Nike
Tim Horton’s serving coffee Tim Horton’s
East Side Mario’s clearing tables East Side Mario’s
Holiday Inn Express cleaning rooms Holiday Inn Express
FutureShop selling washers and dryers FutureShop
Allied Van Lines helping people move Allied Van Lines
Midas fixing mufflers Midas
Sobers tuning pianos Sobers
Domino’s making pizzas Domino’s
The City of Charlottetown fixing potholes Work? (trick question)
It’s just a joke. Take it easy. But believe it or not, there’s a point
to that little exercise. You see, you don’t work for Nike and expect a
paycheque from Reebok. You don’t work for FutureShop and expect a
paycheque from Staples. And you don’t work for the applause of others
and expect a reward from God.
You can do the things you do to please others, to impress them, to gain
their applause. But understand, if you are working for them, then they
are the ones who will be rewarding you. Jesus doesn’t say that you
won’t receive a reward, just that the reward will come from the people
you’re performing for. So if you’re content to receive a few handclaps
and pats on the back, then go ahead. Make a show of it. But if you
expect to receive any reward from God in Heaven, then your motivation
needs to be to please Him first and foremost.
Look at that verse again…
I want you to circle three important words… “to be admired.” Jesus
didn’t say “Don’t do your good deeds publicly because you’ll lose your
reward.” He said, “Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired,
because you’ll lose your reward.” The difference is in the motivation.
Are you doing what you’re doing to please God or to impress others? If
you are doing your good deeds to please God, then it shouldn’t matter
if anybody else notices. It shouldn’t matter if you get applauded by
the masses, because you’re performing for an Audience of One. And it’s
what He thinks that matters. I like the way The Message version of the
Bible interprets this verse…
Matthew 6:1 (MSG)
“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 theatre, but the God who made you won't be applauding.”
The apostle Paul is known as one of the greatest Christians of all
time. He’s the man primarily responsible for spreading Christianity
beyond the Jewish community. He wrote half of the books in our New
Testament. He is someone who lived to please God.
But that wasn’t always the case. When we’re first introduced to Paul in
the book of Acts he was watching and condoning the mob execution of a
believer named Stephen. Paul was very much opposed to the early church
and made it his mission to arrest or kill as many Christians as he
could. At the time, he was going by the name of Saul. And he was a very
religious person. He followed all the religious laws and was quite
proud of it. And as he travelled around trying to wipe out the early
Christians, he gained the approval of many of the Jewish religious
leaders and Roman officials who felt threatened by Christianity. And he
did all he could to continue to please them.
Plus, he was an up-and-comer among the socially elite. He wanted to be
popular. He wanted to be important. He wanted to be first in his class.
And he pretty much achieved all that. Just one thing… he had never met
"Until the one day when this fellow met the Saviour, and he knew that
He was much more than a myth. It was then He gave his life to Jesus,
chose to live for him alone." (To tune of Brady Bunch)
From that point on, Paul ticked off a lot of people. In fact, he
received death threats, had rocks thrown at him, was arrested and
imprisoned, and eventually he was killed for his faith. Check out what
he wrote in Galatians 1:10…
Galatians 1:10 (NLT)
Obviously, I'm not trying to be a people
pleaser! No, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to
please people, I would not be Christ's servant.
So you need to decide: When you do good things, are you going to do
them to impress others and please them, or are you going to do them to
please God? Let me encourage you, do your good deeds to please God
first and foremost, whether anyone else notices or not.
And be assured of this: When you set out to please God, even when
nobody else knows about it, you also please yourself. Because there’s a
sense of inner satisfaction you can gain from serving God in a pure and
“I have never met a soul who has set out to satisfy the Lord who has
not been satisfied himself.”
~ Watchman Nee
The second key is…
2. Set your pride aside. (Mindset)
Matthew 6:2 (NLT)
“When you give a gift to someone in need,
don't shout about it as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the
synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I
assure you, they have received all the reward they will ever get.”
How often do we do things just to feed our pride? Just for the
injections of praise we get from other people?
Back in Jesus time… now this may be a little hard to believe… but there
were lots of religious hypocrites. There were all kinds of people doing
all kinds of good things, but it wasn’t real… it wasn’t authentic… it
wasn’t from a heart of love. It was from a heart of pride. It was just
for show. It was just to gain the approval of all the people around
them. So they would brag about what they were doing, they would make
sure everyone heard about their generous donations, they would issue
press releases and hire sky-writers. Every little thing they would do
would be accompanied with lots of fanfare just to impress everyone.
Boy, I’m sure glad we don’t have that problem today! (Taste the
If you were to visit the Temple in Jesus’ day, you would discover that
they had offering boxes, similar to what why have here at Sunrise. It
was outside of the worship area, and people would give their money when
they walked in. Mark tells us that one time Jesus sat looking at that
area and watched as many rich people came in and put in large amounts.
And he watched one widow come in and put in two copper coins.
Know what that tells me? That tells me that people could see what you
were giving. People knew who the big givers were and who only put in a
couple coins. And the impression I have is that the rich, religious
hypocrites would hang around this area until there was a crowd of
people there and then they would put on this big show of how much money
they were putting in the box. Their action was good, but their mindset
was horrible. They were only seeking to be praised and recognized by
everyone who saw what they were doing.
Jesus tells us, “Don’t be like them. They’re hypocrites! Whenever they
give, they announce it with trumpets! Don’t blow your own horn, do what
you do because you know that’s what God wants you to do.”
Colossians 3:2 (NIV)
Set your minds on things above, not on
Let me tell you something: This prideful pursuit of popularity and
approval is an earthly thing. Don’t buy into it. Instead, set your mind
on the things of God and seek to please Him.
If you struggle with this, let me share with you…
Four Reasons to Quit
Being a People-Pleaser:
• People are fickle.
They can applaud you one minute and condemn you the next. I’ve had
people tell me they’re with me, and the next week have them turn on me
and start spreading vicious rumours about me. You just can’t please
people, they’re so inconsistent.
• Most people don’t care about you anyway.
Nice thought, eh? Somebody said that if you care too much about what
people think of you, you’d probably be disappointed to discover how
seldom they did. And that’s the truth. Why worry so much about what
others think when they probably don’t even notice?
• The most popular people are those who don’t try to please others.
Ever notice that the people who try hardest are usually the most
rejected, while those who really don’t care are the ones who are
admired? It’s a paradox. The less you care about what people think of
you the better they think of you.
• In the end it’s only God’s evaluation that matters anyway.
James 4:12 (NLT)
God alone, who made the law, can rightly judge among us. He alone has
the power to save or to destroy.
Someday, each of us is going to stand before God to be judged. Now, the
Bible teaches that it is by God’s grace in response to our faith that
we are saved and gain entry into Heaven. But we will also be rewarded
according to our works. And when you stand before Him on Judgment day,
He’s not going to take a public opinion poll to determine the extent of
your reward. There’s only one opinion that matters, and that’s God’s.
3. Enter God’s “Secret Service.”
Matthew 6:3-4 (NLT)
“But when you give to someone, don't tell
your left hand what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in
secret, and your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you.”
In other words, don’t brag about the good things you do. Don’t draw
attention to the fact that you are praying, fasting, or giving to the
needy. Don’t do things just for the recognition you can get for it.
Now, sometimes people will recognize what you’re doing, and that’s
okay. Jesus didn’t literally do all of His good deeds in secret. But He
also didn’t draw attention to them. So I think that’s what He was
getting at. It’s okay if people happen to see or find out about your
good deeds, as long as that’s not your aim. Make it your aim to serve
God out of love and obedience whether anybody else ever finds out about
it or not.
You have a choice. When you give to the needy, when you pray, when you
fast, when you serve… (and by the way, it’s “when” you do these things,
not “if”)… do you do it for the applause you can get from others or do
you do if for the applause you can get from the Audience of One?
In one case, you will be awarded by others. In the other case, your
reward is from God. So what you need to do is decide which reward you
want? Do you want your 15 minutes of fame, or do you want to be
rewarded out of God’s glorious riches in Heaven?
“I live before the Audience of One. Before others I have nothing to
prove, nothing to gain, nothing to lose.”
~ Os Guinness
4. Safeguard your heart with
regular “check-ups” (Maintenance)
Matthew 6:1 (NLT)
“Take care! Don't do your good deeds
publicly, to be admired, because then you will lose the reward from
your Father in heaven.”
Jesus said, “Take care!” The NIV says, “Be careful…” This kind of stuff
doesn’t happen by accident. We naturally crave the applause and
approval of others. They’re important to us. And in some ways that’s a
good thing, but not when it takes our focus off of serving God first
and foremost. So we need to regularly do a heart-check and evaluate if
we’re truly doing what we do to please God.
Because it’s easy to fall back into performance mode where you’re more
concerned about what people will think about you than you are about
what God thinks. So put it on your calendar. Schedule it in your Palm
Pilot. Every, say, six months… Do a heart check and ask yourself why
you do what you do? Are you doing it to please God or are you doing it
to please others? Does it really matter if other people ever find out?
Do you need their applause, or are you content hearing the applause of
your Father in Heaven who sees what you do in secret and who promised
to reward you if you do what you do for Him?
If you discover that somewhere along the way you slipped back into
performance mode, then take the time to refocus on the Audience of One.
“When you play to an audience of one, the applause never ends.”
~ Donald S. Whitney
There’s a song by Greg Ferguson called Audience
of One. I’m going to show the chorus up here on the screen. I
want you to read it aloud with me. And as we read it together, take
this opportunity to reflect on your life and determine who you’re
living for. Are you living for the crowd, or are you living for the
Audience of One?
I'll be content to serve an Audience of One
Only His approval counts when all is said and done
And this is my prayer when the race is finally run
I want to hear well done from the Audience of One
~ Greg Ferguson