“No Ostentations”


Jeremy Stopford, Semi-Retired Pastor

 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.

5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. (Matthew 6:1-8).

As our Savior is delivering His “Sermon on the Mount”, He has arrived at the point in His message that involves what true religion should look like. The world of Jesus’ day had the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees along with other religious leaders. For all intents and purposes, they were the example to the rest of the world of Israel what a “true Biblical lifestyle” was thought to look like.

Lord willing, next week we will dive into what the world calls “The Lord’s Prayer.” Today we are looking at some of our Savior’s thoughts leading up to that teaching.

As we enter the REAL world of Biblical Christianity, we need to define two words. One is not in the Bible, the other is. The first word, NOT in the Scriptures, is “OSTENTATION”. According to the dictionary, an “ostentation” is “the act of displaying vainly or pretentiously, as in order to excite admiration. It is an excessive or un-called for exhibition.” To show this word in action, the Savior uses the term “alms” or “almsgiving” – with which both of these the casual Bible reader of 2021 may not be familiar. Again, the dictionary: an “alms” or “almsgiving” has what might be called a good intent. It means “to help people; giving a helping hand in case of need; giving money, time, anything you like which is going to help people.” And the dictionary’s final description: “it tends to be a PUBLIC DISPLAY”. In the Old Testament, in its place, the Lord uses the term “righteousnesses”.

How is the fundamental, Bible believing, Gospel preaching, Spirit led Christian supposed to live? How is he to live in a culture which is filled with public displays of so-called love, what Jesus called “alms” or “almsgiving”, but which have no Biblical content?

FIRST, he is TO LIVE IN GOD’S PRESENCE (see verses 4, 6, 18). The key line here is “the Father Who sees in secret”.

When I first got the “love bug” for the young girl who would one day become my bride, I couldn’t get her out of my sight! Why, I had the bug so bad (HOW BAD WAS IT?). It was so bad that one of our classmates asked my love, “Hey – WHO is your new little “puppy dog”?”. I had – and hopefully still do! – a closeness with this young lady with whom I knew, I just KNEW, the Lord Himself was inviting me to have a long-term relationship with her as my wife.

Now doesn’t that describe how our relationship with the Lord is to be? We are to live in His Presence! We can’t get Him out of our sight – for in reality, we aren’t out of HIS sight!. We are to have the “love bug” for Him so bad (sorry about the English, Professor Becker) that angels could ask the Lord Himself, “who is Your new little ‘puppy dog’?”. Perhaps the analogy is a poor one, but the love is real. We are to live in His Presence!

The New Testament Scriptural term for living in His Presence is the phrase “at hand”. It has a two-fold meaning. First, it can mean “soon”. For example, “the Lord’s return is ‘at hand’” means “He’s coming SOON.”. But it also means “close”. To illustrate, let’s look at a number of Biblical examples:

“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Matthew 3:1-2

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.” 2 Timothy 4:6

“Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” Phil. 4:5

“Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” Rev. 1:3, KJV

Please allow me to give an extended quotation, from the book “Studies in the Sermon on the Mount” by Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones:

“When we wake up in the morning we should immediately remind ourselves and recollect that we are in the PRESENCE OF GOD. It is not a bad thing to say to ourselves before we go any further: ‘Throughout the whole of this day, everything I do, and say, and attempt, and think, and imagine, is going to be done under the eye of God. He is going to be with me; He sees everything; He knows everything. There is nothing I can do or attempt but God is fully aware of it all. “Thou God seest me.”’ It would revolutionize our lives if we always did that!” [my emphasis]

SECOND, the God pleasing born again believer is TO LIVE FOR GOD’S GLORY (see verses 1,2,5). The contrast is displayed in the phrases “to be seen of them” and “to sound a trumpet.”

We all WANT to be seen, don’t we? “Aw come on,” you say. “I don’t have that kind of attitude, that kind of character!” OK, let’s try a little experiment. Get a pen and a notepad, one which is small enough to fit in a pocket so it cannot be seen by those with whom you walk and talk. You are going to create a living ledger! And what are you going to write in your “little note pad living ledger”? You are to make a note of EVERY TIME you say, “How did I do?”, or “How do I look?”.

Simple enough. But what’s the point? The point is this: WE ALL WANT TO BE SEEN! And the Lord Jesus is saying, that His Father HUNGERS for His children to live for HIS glory and not for OURS.

So we should be doing things for His glory. We are to be doing things as moved by God’s Spirit. And then? And then FORGET THEM! We really don’t keep ledgers – let God keep them!

And remind yourself of Paul’s amazing words in 1 Corinthians 15:31: “I die daily.”

THIRD, we are TO LIVE TO SEE GOD’S REWARD (see verses 4 and 6).

Did you catch the phrase, “the Father will reward you”? A good study for us would be to see the times in the New Testament when the Spirit of God has included in the holy writ the REWARDS which will be given when we stand before our Father one day. Here is a reasonably full list, perhaps there are others. A good study for us:

#1. For Faithful Pastors: “the crown of glory” (1 Pet. 5:4)

#2. For souls won: “the crown of rejoicing” (1 Thess. 2:19)

#3. For those who love God through trials: “the crown of life” (Jas. 1:12; Rev. 2:10)

#4. For those who love Christ’s appearing: the crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8)

#5. For those who seek mastery of Christ over the cares of each day:

“the incorruptible crown” (1 Cor. 9:25).

How do we do that NOW? We do that by living BY FAITH. Once again, let’s look at some Biblical examples:

Abraham was looking for a city whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:9, 10)

Moses considered the reproaches of Christ greater reward than the riches of Egypt (Heb. 11:24-26)

All those throughout this side of eternity who choose to live by faith and not by sight, “of whom the world was not worthy” (Heb. 11:36-38)

So you ask, how do we begin to live such a powerful, overcoming life? Well, haven’t we learned already? We begin by LIVING IN GOD’S PRESENCE!!!

With no ostentations!