Posted by: Brad Beaman | December 7, 2007

Sermon on the Mount: Motives

There was something taught in one of my business classes at Indiana University that has stuck with me. It is the concept of enlightened self-interest. This is a philosophy in business ethics which states that companies who act to further the interests of others, ultimately serve their own self-interest.

Corporations are guilty of this when they do good deeds just so they will look good in the public eye and make more money. A company may start a major recycling campaign, not because they care about the environment, but they hope it will boost sales among environmentally conscious people.

That is why I am not immediately impressed by the liquor industry initiating campaigns such as “don’t drink and drive” or “don’t drink under age”. I question their motives.

Corporations are not the only ones who need to watch their motives. In Matthew 6:1 Jesus says, be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them.

The Greek word used is Theaomai the word relating to theatrical. Our good deeds should not be theatrical performances designed to impress other people. That would be nothing more than a religious show.

The subconscious has a way of deluding us into thinking we perform a given task for God when really it is done for ourselves. In other words we could easily become guilty of enlightened self-interest.

If you develop an enlightened self-interest syndrome you may impress others, but not God. The Pharisees motives were about impressing people. Outward practices only have meaning when right attitude is behind it.

Benevolence

Jesus addresses giving to the poor. What could be more noble and more pure than giving to the poor? But even in this Jesus warns us about seeking self-interests.

Matthew 6:1-4
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Jesus warns against improper motives. Sounding a trumpet to attract attention to their generosity. They really want to glorify themselves not God. They are saying hey look at me how compassionate I am. They play when the saints come marching in when they give. Jesus called such acts hypocrisy. Hypocrites do that. Play actors. Those who are one way and pretend to be another.

The proper way to give, rather than bringing attention to yourself is to give in secret. Don’t let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. God who sees you will repay you. There is only one who needs to know our giving and that is God.

Primary message is that your giving is an act of worshipping God, not calling attention to yourself. God knows what you do and he knows the motive you do it with. The bottom line is don’t let your motivation for giving be to be seen by men. Let is be an outflow of your gratitude to God.

Prayer
There is a difference between real prayer and just words. The improper way is t stand on the street corner to be seen by men. This is the way of the hypocrites, the play actors.

Matthew 6:5-8
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

At one high profile political prayer breakfast some concern was voiced that the prayer breakfast could turn into a photo session. The Pharisees delighted in making their prayer times into photo opportunities.

They would stand on the street corner and make a show of their prayers. At certain times of the day the Pharisees would stop and pray. They would time it so that they would be in a prominent place when it was time for prayer.

Prayer is talking to God, the best praying can be done when you are alone with God in a private location. Public prayers are not wrong. Jesus himself did pray in public. Don’t make a religious show of your prayers.

A childlike heart with simple faith pleases God. Real prayer means praying with the right motives.

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