Welcome to the first part of the 3rd course of Red Bricks.
Read Matthew 6:1-4
As we start to lay our third course of bricks, we continue to learn from what is known as the Sermon on the Mount, or Beatitudes. Yeshua (that is Jesus), a Hebrew in every way, was teaching His disciples and a growing crowd, about what Torah (the Law) really meant. We have seen, particularly in the our second course, that Yeshua (pronounced Yes-Shu-Ah), attacked what is known as the Oral Traditions. These Oral Traditions, which were later written down in what is known as Mishnah, were rules that had been added to the Law that God had given to Moses. It had taken so many years of dissecting each line of Torah and arguing over what it truly meant in a super spiritual way, that the original concept had been lost.
The Oral Traditions were not only very legalistic in approach, but also missed God’s true heart in the giving of the Law to start with. Yeshua came to rectify that. Many of His teachings began with phrases like ‘you have heard it said‘. When He spoke in this way, He was directly attacking the teachers of such Oral Traditions.
The passage we are looking at today follows in this same vein.
The Mishnah, or Oral Tradition states that in order to acquire Torah (that is a non-existent state before God which can never be achieved by observing laws), one must love righteousness. Yeshua didn’t dispute loving righteousness, but He did dispute observing rules as a way of finding such a spiritual state.
In order to achieve this state, the Mishnah teaches that certain ‘acts of righteousness‘ must be observed. In Hebrew there are two variant words that can both mean righteousness. One is tzedek, which means a righteousness according to the strict letter of the Law. The other is tzedekah, which means righteousness based upon mercy, not rules.
Naturally, when people follow rules and expect that observance to bring them righteousness, it is easy for these same people to want others to see that they are acquiring Torah. They would perform tzedekah (or try to) upon the poor. Mishnah states that God intentionally doesn’t provide for the poor in order to grant an opportunity to the affluent to gain merit before Him. Of course, this will always lead to people wanting to be seen to be helping the poor.
In order to address this whole misunderstanding of helping others, Y’shua warned not to do tzedekah in front of others. He made it clear that it is right to help and support anyone in need, but that we should look to doing it in secret, where only God can see.
What does that mean for us today in practical terms? It means that if we choose to walk according to God’s Spirit, as opposed to satisfying the desires of our flesh – such as recognition for our good deeds, then He will show us who needs our help. Our job is to help those people without the world seeing us. Our job is to let God be glorified in our lives by choosing not to be applauded by other men when we do our duty to God.
Yeshua warned that those who do tzedekah in order to win approval from other men, have already received their reward. He challenges us to do works that God will reward in the life to come, not those that men reward in this life.