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2-14-24 What Really Matters

What Really Matters

David Peterson / General

Hypocrisy; Holiness / Matthew 6:1–6; Matthew 6:16–21

Sermon Type: Textual-Topical

Proposition: The human tendency to miss the point means we need to be reminded again and again. The means of awakening us to the truth is the word spoken to us by Christ through his church.


Key Text: Matthew 6:21 NIV1984

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

1. Hypocritical religion

Matthew 6:1 (Preaching the Word)SADDAM HUSSEIN was a very religious man, or so it seems. During his twenty-four years of dictatorship in Iraq, he brought about many religious “advances.” He built, for example, the largest mosque in the region, which supposedly contained a copy of the Quran written in his own blood. During his reign, he also added an inscription in his own hand on the Iraqi flag: Allahu Akbar (“God is Great”).

Matthew 6:1 (Preaching the Word)For example, he [Christopher Hitchens] writes about his visit to Iran, which like Iraq is an Islamic nation and thus stringently upholds the teachings of the Quran. Therefore, premarital intercourse and prostitution are outlawed. However, what happens is that the mullahs (the Islamic religious leaders) profit monetarily by licensing something they call “temporary marriages.” That is, a man comes to the mullah, often in a specially designated house, and receives a temporary marriage license to be the temporary husband of a girl he has never met. Then he can have a temporary union with her and just a few minutes later conveniently and lawfully receive a permanent divorce declaration. Some might call this legalized prostitution. Hitchens writes about how he was offered “such a bargain,” of all places, outside the shrine to the Ayatollah Khomeini in south Tehran.

I. Be Careful … (Matthew 6:1)

1. Explanation

6:5–6. The problem is not public prayer but motives directed toward other people rather than toward God.

Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Mt 6:5–6). InterVarsity Press.

TO the Jews, there were above all three great works of the religious life, three great pillars on which the good life was based—almsgiving, prayer and fasting. Jesus would not for a moment have disputed that; what troubled him was that so often in human life the finest things were done from the wrong motives.

Barclay, W. (2001). The Gospel of Matthew (Third Ed., p. 213). Saint Andrew Press.

2. Application

3. Illustration

Practicing What You Preach

I have to make a disclaimer right at the beginning. I have to tell you that I’m a phony. It’s terrible living with yourself after you give a good sermon.

I remember once giving a sermon on death, and I was asking people, “What do we have to fear? If we really believe that death is the beginning of life, it’s not the end–” and suddenly I got a pain in the center of my chest.

“Whoa!” I said. “This could be a heart attack!”

And recently they put out a John Powell reader (called Through Seasons of the Heart), and I was asked to review the selections to make sure they were the most important things I wrote. Well, I was reading the manuscript, and I said, “Hey, this is good stuff. Wonder why I don’t practice it?”

Source: John Powell, “Prayer as Surrender,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 108.

Don’t stay away from church because there are so many hypocrites. There’s always room for one more. Arthur R. Adams

John Lennon’s Son, on Dad

I felt he was a hypocrite. Dad could talk about peace and love out loud to the world, but he could never show it to the people who supposedly meant the most to him: his wife and son. How can you talk about peace and love and have a family in bits and pieces-no communication, adultery, divorce? You can’t do it, not if you’re being true and honest with yourself.”

Source: Julian Lennon, who was abandoned by his father, Beatle John Lennon, at the age of five; quoted in Servant, (Summer 1998), p. 9

II. Remember What Really Matters (Matthew 6:20)

1. Explanation

treasures in heaven (v. 20): There is scriptural background to Jesus’ exhortation to treasure up treasure in heaven. Heaven, the dwelling of God, is sometimes thought of as a treasury or storehouse (e.g., Deut. 28:12 “the LORD will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens”). Treasure is to be laid up on earth “against the day of necessity” (Tob. 4:9), but it is the heavenly treasure that is the most important, and that is laid up through true piety: “the one who does righteousness treasures up life to him for himself with the Lord” (Pss. Sol. 9:5). Especially pertinent to the context of Matt. 6:1–18 is Tobit’s wise advice to his son: “Prayer is good when accompanied by fasting, almsgiving, and righteousness. A little with righteousness is better than much with wrongdoing. It is better to give alms than to treasure up gold” (Tob. 12:8). The combination of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving corresponds to Matt. 6:5–15, 16–18, and 2–4. For other expressions of treasure in heaven, see 4 Ezra 7:77 “you have a treasure of works laid up with the Most High”; 2 Bar. 14:12; 24:1; 44:14; t. Levi 13:5 “do righteousness on earth, that you might find it in heaven”; Pesiqta de-Rab Kahana 8.1 “Though the man who is concerned with Torah labors under the sun, his treasure is above the sun.”

Treasure in heaven portrayed in its most graphic way is depicted in the book of Revelation, where the saints will walk streets made of gold (Rev. 21:18, 21 “the city was pure gold … the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold”).

Evans, C. A. (2003). The Bible Knowledge Background Commentary: Matthew–Luke (C. A. Evans & C. A. Bubeck, Eds.; First Edition, pp. 128–129). David C Cook.

2. Application

3. Illustration

It is fitting, then, not only to be called Christians, but to be so in reality.


Fascinating Stats on Generosity

Who are the most generous givers? As a nation, America tops the charts. The three most charitable cities in America are all in Idaho. On average practicing Christians in those Idaho cities give $17,977. That beats out the giving from people in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, which averages $3,308 per person.

Age also makes a big difference in giving. Eighty four percent of millennials give less than $50 to charity per year even though charitable giving ranks high on their priorities.

Today, the average church attender gives 2.5% of his or her income annually. During the Great Depression, that number was 3.3%. Thirty seven percent of those who consider themselves evangelical Christians don’t give at all to their churches. Only 2.7% of evangelical Christians practice tithing.

Source: John Lee, On Generosity (Stone Tower Press, 2022), pp. 63-64; Michael Foust, “America’s Most Generous Christians Live in Idaho, Iowa,” Christian Headlines (11-27-19)

III. We Need to Be Reminded (Matthew 6:1)

1. Explanation

2. Application

3. Illustration



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