As I have been teaching through the Sermon on the Mount with my staff, we have been amazed to see just how practical God’s Word really is. It truly is relevant to the 21st Century human being. To recap some of our previous lessons:
Yesterday, we looked at chapter 6 of Matthew, focusing on the actions/conduct of a man who has the righteousness of God.
I. Beware, a serious warning
Jesus begins this section of the Sermon on the Mount with a command; beware of practicing your righteousness. Why is this important in the context of the Sermon on the Mount? It is important because there are two kinds of righteousness, the righteousness of God vs. the righteousness of man. Do not beware of practicing righteousness. All of us will practice some form of righteousness. The warning is to beware of the motives of why you do what you do. If you are practicing righteousness for the wrong reasons then you are practicing the wrong kind of righteousness, the righteousness of man. If you have the righteousness of God then you are going to practice that righteousness with the right motives. Looking at the previous chapter, the motives are brought into question by Jesus. There are several scenarios where you will manifest which kind of righteousness that you have.
- Confrontation and Reconciliation
- Keeping your word
- Going the extra mile
- Loving your enemies
In all of the situations, the righteousness of man focuses on the external facade while the righteousness of God focuses on the motives of the heart. A person with the righteousness of man would never physically commit murder but he will be controlled by anger and hatred, playing out murder fantasies in his mind where no one can see. God sees and calls us out on the motives of our heart. If you have the righteousness of man, you either avoid confrontation at all costs or you confront the other person to destroy him or her, making yourself look better and not really caring about the other person. The righteousness of God has the right motives, he confronts to resolve and for the good of the other person. All of these circumstances give you an opportunity to prove to yourself and to the world which righteousness you have.
II. Practical situations
In chapter 6, Jesus gives several other situations in which you prove the kind of righteousness that you have.
God is not impressed that you give. He is interested in why you give. If you give to make yourself feel better then you have the righteousness of man. If you give so that others will see you giving then you are not living by the righteousness of God. James teaches us that when we give, we give with the good of the recipient in mind.
27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this : to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1)
The word “visit” literally means “research their situation”. When we give, we do not just throw money at a problem. We give because we truly want to help the recipient. Why do you give? Do you give to make yourself look better or feel better or do you give because you want to help the person to whom you are giving? God does not focus on the giving. He focuses on why you give. Both the righteousness of man and the righteousness of God cause you to give. The difference between the two is the WHY you give. The same is applied to prayer, do you pray to talk to God or to impress the hearers? Do you pray to communicate with God or to preach sermonettes? When you fast (if you fast) why do you do it?
III. Your priorities
What are your priorities? Your priorities show which righteousness you have and live by; that of man or that of God.
- Daily pursuit
Where are you storing up your treasures, on the earth or in heaven? If you are investing heavily in the here and now, then your righteousness is the wrong one. If your motto is, “whoever dies with the most toys wins” then you are living by the wrong righteousness. If you are seeking to store up treasures in heaven, what does that look like according to the rest of the Sermon on the Mount?
- You hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness moment by moment.
- You are salt and light to the world.
- You focus on relationships.
- You keep the Word of God and teach others to do the same.
- You focus on serving others and not yourself.
- You seek to forgive others and be reconciled with them.
- Your motivations are right in all that you do.
These are all things that may cost your financially but you do not mind the cost because it is storing up treasures that cannot be lost. Many of these do not produce tangible treasures in the here and now but God keeps an account of them.
If you are storing your treasures in the here and now, then you will constantly worry about everything. Tomorrow is a scary thought because you do no know what will happen. You are controlled by the here and now with such things as “what will I eat? what will I drink? what will I wear? where will I sleep? etc”. What makes you any different than animals if you live this way? God knows that we need all of these things and He created us for a greater purpose than just eating and sleeping. The person who lives by the righteousness of man is consumed by the previous things.
The person who lives by the righteousness of God has his number 1 priority as “seeking first the kingdom of God and all of its righteousness”. He wakes up every morning, not to fill his belly and go and make money to buy food and collect more things, instead, he lives to serve God by serving the people around him with the right motives.
Why do you do what you do? Why do you serve others, because you want to help them or because you want something out of it? What drives you to get out of bed every morning, to fill your belly and work so that you will have food, clothing, and a place to sleep or to seek God’s kingdom and serve Him? Where are you storing your treasures? What are your priorities? According to whose righteousness are you living moment by moment? May the Lord help us live according to His righteousness and not our own.