No Reward for Empty Words
Pastor John Sloan
Introduction: There was no sin that caused Jesus to say to the offending party, “You are hopelessly beyond redemption.” But it is clear in the Gospels that Jesus is disgusted by theatrical righteousness. There is a form of outward piety—noble acts done for the praise of men—that is offensive to our Lord, and garners no reward from him. Yet, incredibly, the humble and broken find an audience with the very God of the Universe, and the reward of his attentive ear.
Questions for Discussion & Discovery
1. What is the reward for those who do good deeds “in order to be praised by” other people (verse 2)? Why is this reward always unfulfilling?
2. Martin Luther often argued that our righteousness is more dangerous than our sin. What do you think he meant? Do you agree?
3. What is the benefit of praying in secret (verse 6)?
4. Is it right or wrong to offer long prayers to God? Why or why not?
5. What words would you use to describe your prayer life? What does your level of devotion to this discipline say about your trust in God?
6. Based solely on the work of Jesus, God’s people can come into an intimate relationship with the all-powerful Creator. How does that comfort you?
1. Read Matthew 6:1-4.
2. “Keeping the right hand from knowing what the left hand is doing means seeking to be unself-conscious and unself-impressed. Our social-justice work or our financial generosity (the one hand) should not be credited to our spiritual standing before God (the other hand).” – Frederick Dale Bruner
3. 01. Biblical obedience is motivated not by a pursuit of man’s approval but (mainly) by an understanding of all we have in Jesus.
4. “Jesus was offensive to smug, judgmental, religious people. He was a breath of fresh air to broken, non-religious people. Can the same be said about his followers today?” – Scott Sauls
5. Read verses 5-6.
6. Read verses 7-8.
7. 02. Biblical prayer is characterized by trust in God’s providence and avoids any attempt to manipulate God.
8. Read verse 9.
9. “God is our Father in heaven … because he has come near to his children by his grace, establishing a covenant relationship of intimacy and community. Yet God is at the same time “our Father in heaven”; he remains distant from his children because of his glory, which leads us to approach him with awe.” – David Turner
10. 03. Biblical prayer is familial, rooted in relationship not an appeal to an impersonal divine force.
11. “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God … let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14-16