unchristian: reframing our faith through purifying motives

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

The Sermon on the Mount began with the Beatitudes, focusing on the inner attitudes of those who follow Jesus. In chapter 6, Jesus shares how our inner attitudes should manifest themselves outwardly, particularly in the areas of giving, praying, and fasting. WHY do we give, pray, and fast? Is our motivation for doing so to make Christ known, or is it to somehow bring attention to ourselves?

SCRIPTURE

1Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2So 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 others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 5And 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 others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6But 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. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. 9This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, 10Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11Give us today our daily bread. 12And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ 14For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. 16When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:1-18

GROUP QUESTIONS

Do you think you ever have a completely pure motive for doing anything?

Read Matthew 6:1-18. What does it mean to “practice your righteousness”?

Read Matthew 5:16 and Matthew 6:1. Is Jesus giving us contradictory commands? If not, what do you think is at the heart of what He is saying?

What word is repeated at the beginning of verses 2-3 (giving), 5-7 (praying), and 16-17 (fasting)? What is implied by the use of this word?

There is a lot of talk about “rewards” in this passage. What do you think the rewards are? Are they given now or in heaven? Is the promise of a reward what should motivate you to do righteous acts?

APPLICATION

Choose to do one, two, or all three of the following:

Either as a group or on your own, purchase a gift card for a local coffee shop. Give it to the barista to pay for the next few customers. Ask the barista not to let anyone know who the giver is. Sit and watch how people respond to receiving this gift. What were some of the reactions you witnessed? How did this make you feel?

It’s ironic that Jesus tells us not to “keep on babbling like pagans” in our prayers just before teaching the Lord’s Prayer; for many, this prayer is said repeatedly and without thought to the words. Pray the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) every day this week. Concentrate on what it means as you’re praying it. If you find you are just reciting and not thinking about the prayer, write it out, meditating on it as you write.

Set up a time to fast this month. For more information on fasting, especially for those who have never done it before, visit http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/fasting-for-beginners.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Read the following verses, and list what you learn about giving, praying, and fasting:

  • Proverbs 14:31
  • James 2:15-17
  • 2 Corinthians 9:7
  • Psalm 145:18
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:17
  • 1 John 5:14
  • Isaiah 58:3-7
  • Joel 2:12
  • Luke 18:9-14

In Matthew 6:2, 5, and 16, Jesus cited examples of hypocritical actions. Where do you struggle with hypocrisy in your own life?

Many times the Bible refers to God’s heart for the poor and the needy (Psalm 140:12, Proverbs 19:17; 21:13, Amos 5:24, 1 John 3:17-18). Do you think that the modern-day church has overlooked the poor? Why or why not?

What are the key focal points of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)? How might you use these focal points to guide you as you pray?

As Jesus began His ministry, He fasted for forty days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-2). Why do you think He did this? What you can learn from His example?

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