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Matthew 6:1-18

Secret but Seen

  • Weekend Messages
  • July 15, 2018

A “Show-off” is defined as a person “who deliberately behaves in such a way as to attract attention.” Often the only person who is impressed by a “show-off” is the person who is trying to show off! What does God think of “show-offs”? Is He impressed? In Matthew 6:1-18, we will discover important principles for living before God because what matters most in life is what God sees in the secret place of our hearts.

  • Sermon Notes

Secret but Seen

Matthew 6:1-18


1. A “Show-off” is defined as a person “who deliberately behaves in such a way as to attract attention.”

ILLUS – Trying to impress my youth group while roller-skating!

2. Often the only person who is impressed by a “show-off” is the person who is trying to show off!

3. What does God think of “show-offs”? Is He impressed?

4. In Matthew 6:1-18, we will discover important principles for living before God because what matters most in life is what God sees in the secret place of our hearts.

Matthew 6:1-18


1. In Matthew 5:20, Jesus declared that perfection is the standard for entrance into the kingdom of heaven. He said, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” 

2. The scribes and Pharisees were hailed as the standard of righteousness. But Jesus declared their standard was not good enough because they only focused on an external obedience to the Law.

3 .God’s looks at the heart! He desires a true righteousness where obedience flows from a heart that is filled with faith because it has been transformed by His love and grace through Jesus.

John Stott, “Christian righteousness is righteousness unlimited. It must be allowed to penetrate beyond our actions and words to our heart, mind and motives, and to master us even in those hidden, secret places.”

4. In Matthew 6:1-18, Jesus addressed three common areas of religious practice for the Jews, alms giving (giving to the poor), prayer, and fasting.

5 .He contrasted the motives of the Pharisees with what He expects to see from His disciples because God’s grace has transformed their hearts.

I.Seek God’s Approval Not Man’s (1-4, 16-18)

  • The first verse immediately grabs our attention because Jesus spoke directly about our motives.
  • He warned, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them…”
  • Now, in Matthew 5, Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may glorify your Father in heaven.”
  • Was Jesus contradicting Himself? No!
  • In Matthew 5, Jesus was declaring that if God has made a difference in your life, then live in such a way that people may see the difference and glorify your heavenly Father.
  • Here, Jesus was saying, “Don’t do good things just to be noticed by men. That’s the wrong motive. Don’t be a “show-off”!

A. When you give, don’t toot your own horn (1-4)

1. “Alms giving” is an act of charity, where someone meets the needs of another. This can be done by giving money, but it can also involve giving one’s time, talents, or expertise.
2 .Jesus did not object to giving to the poor. He assumed His disciples would be generous to those in need just as their heavenly Father has been generous to meet their needs. That’s why He said, “when you give”.

3. Rather, Jesus objected to the way the Pharisees made a “big show” of giving to the poor. He warned that they had their reward, a temporal one from men, not from God.

4 .He called them “hypocrites” because they drew public attention to their good deeds (i.e. “sounded a trumpet”). The word hypocrite was used three times in this passage. In the Greek, it means “to be an actor”. To treat the world like it’s your stage so you may play your part.

ILLUS – Theodore Roosevelt during one of his political campaigns…

5. Jesus called out the Pharisees because they appeared concerned for the poor, when in fact, they used religion to cover their true motives, their desire to receive the praise of men.

Warren Wiersbe, “A hypocrite is not a person who falls short of his high ideals, or who occasionally sins, because all of us experience these failures. A hypocrite deliberately uses religion to cover up his sins and promote his own gains… hypocrisy robs us of reality in Christian living.”

6.What did Jesus mean when He said, “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing”? (v. 3) Jesus meant that we should live in such a way that there is no room for pride to fill our hearts.

APPL – Practice your righteousness before Him, for He is the One who will bless you. He is the One who blesses us on earth, and He is the One who blesses us in heaven.

B.When you fast, shower and smile (16-18)

1.In like manner, Jesus brought up fasting in verses 16-18.

2.The Pharisees fasted twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays.

3.Apparently, the Pharisees would make a big scene about the fact that they were fasting (i.e. gloomy face and unkept appearance) to be seen by men, yet their hearts were not changed.

4.Jesus expected His disciples to fast for He said, “And whenever you fast”. He fasted 40 days prior to the start of His ministry and the early church fasted as well.

5.What is fasting? Fasting is saying “no” to the flesh so that we can say “yes” to God. It’s about getting our hearts right with God.


Romans 14:17, … for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

6.Why do Christians fast?

a.Perhaps we have sinned and are grieved by our choices, so we fast.

b.Or there is a stronghold in our lives or in the lives of someone we love, and we want a breakthrough, so we fast.

c.Perhaps we’re at a crossroads and we need God’s guidance, so we fast.

Acts 13:2-3, While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

ILLUS – Seeking the Lord at pivotal times

d.Or we just desire more intimate fellowship with our heavenly Father, so we fast.

APPL – The whole point of fasting is that we are seeking God and trusting Him to change our hearts so that we become vessels for Him to use.

II. God Invites Us to Seek Him (5-15)

Psalm 27:8, When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.”

  • I confess that I am struck when I read this passage because the Father is speaking through His Son, Jesus, about prayer.
  • It’s like God is saying, “I’ve been listening to people pray for a long time, and I have some things I wish to say about prayer.”


  • Notice that Jesus assumed His people would pray for He said, “When you pray”. The assumption is that those who are godly understand the importance of prayer.
  • Here, Jesus gave excellent insights into the life of prayer that God desires from those who seek Him. 

A.Pray in secret (5-6)

1.Once again, Jesus warned against praying in order to be seen by men.

2.Jesus was not saying that we should never pray in public. He prayed in public, but the greatest portion of His prayer life was between Him and Father God.

Mark 1:35, In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.

Luke 5:16, But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.

Luke 6:12, It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.

3.The same was true for His disciples.

4.The point is our motives. Authentic prayer is communication with God. It’s personal even when done it public. It’s about a relationship even when shared with others so that they may say, “Amen!” It’s about God and not men.


B. Think when you pray (7-8)

1.Was Jesus saying that we shouldn’t pray the same prayer while we’re waiting for an answer?

a. No. Jesus prayed the same prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26.

b.Paul repeated the same request three times and then God answered his prayer.

2 Corinthians 12:7-9, Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

2.Jesus was condemning the pagan practice of moving the mouth without engaging the mind. The pagans thought the the quantity of words would compel or obligate God to answer.

3.There are many people even today who think that through meaningless repetition, God will answer their prayers.

ILLUS – Going to confession

4.Jesus said that this was “meaningless”. In other words, if it doesn’t mean anything in our hearts, then it doesn’t touch God’s heart.

APPL – Do you use the same prayers all the time? Of course, a simple prayer of thanks before a meal is very appropriate.


APPL – Prayers with children should be simple, but we should still mean what we say. They should edify and encourage faith in our children.

C. Pray in God’s will (9-15)

1.Here, Jesus gave an example or a pattern for prayer. It’s not to be repeated from memory without engaging the heart and mind!

2.He began with “Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” He is our Father and He is also to be highly honored.

3.“Your kingdom come”. Pray for the coming of God’s kingdom and that you will live the kingdom principles now while waiting for it to come to earth.

4.“Your will be done”. The best that life can offer is God’s will. Pray for His will to be done.

5.“Give us our daily bread”. Look to God each day to meet your needs like Israel did in the wilderness when God provided manna.

6.“Forgive us our debts, even as we forgive our debtors”. Prayer changes our hearts so that we may forgive.

APPL – God wants us to forgive others that sin against us. He really does. Some might say, “I can’t forgive because they don’t deserve it.” Did we deserve God’s forgiveness?

If we refuse to forgive, and hold onto our bitterness, a root of bitterness will infect every area of our lives.

Jesus was saying that root of bitterness will even prevent us from enjoying our relationship with God.

This is not about one’s salvation but about recognizing how much we have been forgiven so that we may forgive those who sin against us.

Ephesians 4:32, And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

7.“Lead us not into temptation”. Probably the best explanation for what Jesus is saying is found in the Bible itself.

1 Corinthians 10:13, No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

APPL – Verse 8 is very helpful. Our Father knows what we need before we ask Him. But we need to ask.

Does God need our worship? No, but I need to worship.

Does God need our prayers? No, but I need to pray.

For when I am in God’s presence, I am reminded of His greatness, love, grace, and mercy. My heart is changed. My life is transformed.


APPL – In closing, seeking the approval of man is a trap. People will love you one moment, then despise you the next.

ILLUS – My brother’s experience in college football

APPL – How much stock do you put in the approval of others or how often do you find yourself seeking their approval?

May we live our lives like there is an audience of One; our Father in Heaven! He sees what is in the secret place of our hearts and longs to bless with rewards that will never fade away! His love for us never changes.

Romans 8:38-39, For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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