Listen to Audio

Playing to the Crowd

Matthew 6:1-4

“Be 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. (Matthew 6:1)

“So 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. (Matthew 6:2)

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, (Matthew 6:3)

so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:4)

Sermon on the Mount

Society – more – self destructive – ≠ Killing ourselves


Playing to the Crowd

To appeal to the least sophisticated parts of an audience in order to get maximum approval.


So Jesus in chapter 6 turns his attention to the issue of hypocrisy. And if there’s a more overused insult to christianity, I don’t know what it is. – Possibly ‘heretic’.

Jesus teaching on ‘Hypocrisy’ and uses two greek references to theater.

Greeks invented theater. Drama. – Plays. All comes from the greeks.

1. “In order to be seen.”

That’s a phrase that comes from theater.

“Don’t do good things as a kind of theater.”

2. ‘As the hypocrites’ do.

Hypocrites is a greek word, it hasn’t been translated.

Nowadays, it means all kinds of things, especially when talking about religious people. But in the greek, it’s simply talking about an actor on a stage. It also has a connotation of putting on a mask for theater. (Pic mask pics)

Tragedies / Comedies.

Don’t “do good” as a kind of theater, like an actor on a stage.

Speculative history

A 45 minute walk from nazareth – where Jesus grew up and was a carpenter / construction worker.

The greek city of Sepphoris – Sef-o-ris

(Had a greek theater)

Had a greek theater – built in the decade before Jesus started his ministry – BY jewish laborers.

Some bible scholars wonder if Jesus and maybe his father Joseph, and his brothers could have worked building this theater. Jesus knew about theater, and he says ‘this is not the right way to go about doing good.

Hypocrisy – misunderstood

Hypocrisy – misunderstood – especially by cynical people.

Hypocrisy is NOT failing to live all that you confess to believe.

That just makes you a sinner. Which we all are.

Hypocrisy is not knowing the right thing to do and doing the wrong thing anyway. That’s all of us.

Ex: How many believe in being merciful? Blessed are the merciful. How many of you from time to time fail to show mercy? All of us. Doesn’t make you a hypocrite.

Hypocrisy is spirituality as a kind of theater.

It’s easy to confuse hypocrisy and discipleship. They’re similar in a lot of ways.

No one wants to be a hypocrite. – Right? But hopefully many of us want to be a disciple of Jesus.

A hypocrite and and a disciple of Jesus are both trying to imitate Jesus.

  • A hypocrite tries to imitate Jesus as a role that they play.
  • Disciple – imitates – Want to become like him.

Ex: Mother Teresa – Known all over the world for her acts of righteousness. But she wasn’t playing to the crowd.

There’s a difference between playing Mother Teresa in a movie and giving your live to work at Mother Teresa’s “Home For The Dying” – Kolkata, India

Would be some similarities. – (Pic)

  • Left – Sister Nirmala Joshi – Successor
  • Right – Olivia Hussey – 2003 TV Movie

Outfit. “Habit” Memorized prayers. Pray.

One of them, does it for the sake of the audience. The director comes and says “Action!” Start praying, start caring the sick and the dying. “Cut!” – Done.

The other, cares for the dying, and says their prayers whether there’s an audience or not.

One imitates mother teresa for the people who are going to watch the movie, the other imitates mother teresa in an effort to actually be like her.

Christianity as a kind of theater. – Is extremely common.

Even for people who are in the ministry. Maybe ESPECIALLY. It’s one of the ways that people know themselves.

So people pray, and give, and fast, and going through our minds is things like “Are people watching me?”

  • Do I have an audience?
  • Are people seeing what I’m doing here?

Hypocrisy requires an audience. Playing to the crowd.

Jesus – trumpet – giving – poor.

Jesus uses the example of playing a trumpet when you want people to recognize that you’re giving to the poor.

That would be weird. But I know what he means.

I REALLY like it when people notice that I’m generous.

If I’m ever driving in the car with someone and there’s someone on the side of the road, and I give them money when there’s let say a car behind me of someone I know. I really like that!

I make a point to try and personally give money to the poor. It’s a conviction that I have, I go to the bank and pull out money that way I’ll always have it to give if anyone needs any. And I LOVE it when people see that. And if people happen to notice that I give somebody something, that’s fine, but the SECOND I start HOPING people see me, I’ve slipped into hypocrisy.

Jesus says when you have that mindset in your giving, and people see you, there you go. That’s your reward. You got what you came for.

The disciple on the other hand, might be noticed, but he’s not doing it TO BE noticed.

It’s not his MOTIVE. This MOTIVE is to be generous because God is generous. Our first motive in being generous is that we’re trying to be like Jesus.

So for us the question is not ‘Am I being noticed?’ it’s ‘Am I becoming like Jesus?’

Since ‘Playing to the Crowd’ is such a destructive force in our Christian lives, we have to resist the temptation to make our churches a kind of theater.

If people arrive at our churches, and what they see if people ‘playing parts’ so that we’re noticed, they know it.

Ex: If you go to a play. – Shakespeare – Forgets lines

And the guy forgets his line. It’s uncomfortable for everybody. Of worse: He trips and falls on his face. It’s excruciating! Because: We expect a performance to be perfect. And when it’s not, it’s awkward.

But if it’s not a performance, instead it’s real life, and someone falls, you know what you do? You help them back up!

You’re not expecting people to be perfect. Falling is part of the journey,.

Brief comment – People – ministry.

Now I want to make a brief comment to all the people who work in the ministry here. I know there’s a bunch of you. – Worship people, preachers, etc.

It’s extra important for us to know this, because we do our work on a stage! – Of all things!

There’s a logistical reason for it, you have people and they need to see you, etc. But can you see the danger?

If the problem is playing to crowd, and then for a living you’re singing or preaching to a crowd from a stage, the temptation will always be to simply do what we think the people ‘want’.

Honestly: I don’t really feel that here. – Blessed to have a church where I’ve always felt the freedom to say whatever I want.

But when I go to other churches, – STORIES FROM THIS PAST WEEKEND.

We must continually ask ourselves ‘What does Jesus have to say?’

What good is it to gain a huge church and lose your soul?

I’m not good at this, but I’m TRYING to get to the place where what I really care about is having a ministry that Jesus would respect.

If Jesus was on the front row, what would he think. Since that doesn’t happen, the 2nd best thing is what Jordan thinks. Still trying to impress Jordan.

Matthew 6:1-4

“Be 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. (Matthew 6:1)

“So 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. (Matthew 6:2)

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, (Matthew 6:3)

so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:4)

I wonder if any of you by now have noticed a problem in my sermon. Especially if you compare it to what we were talking about last week – SALT.

Matthew 5:16

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

Whoa! WHAT?

Jesus says ‘Let your good works be seen by others.’ and then He comes back and says ‘Make sure you don’t do good works to be seen.’

Did Jesus forget what he just said? No. The solution is your motivation: Good works need to be seen, but they’re never done TO be seen.

I once heard a pastor say this : “Righteousness needs to be hidden, not from others, but from ourself.”

Jesus talks about how the left hand shouldn’t know what the right hand is doing.

To a certain extent, it’s good to have a lack of self-consciousness about your own ‘good deeds’.

Here’s what I mean: In the Christian life, we’re supposed to be learning skills. – Praying, forgiving, showing mercy, being generous.

The hope is that they start becoming 2nd nature.

Think about when you were a kid, and you decide to do something nice for your sibling. Drew them a picture. Your mom comes up and says ‘David, that was so nice! Honey come in here! Look what David did! Isn’t he so nice?!’ And then I’m walking around so proud because I’m so amazing.

Mature generosity there’s not that same self-consciousness. Just who you are.

It just happens. It’s not this “I AM GIVING! LOOK AT ME! I’M GIVING!”

Riding a bike.

When you first do it “Look at me! I’m riding a bike!!!”

Imagine how weird it would be now, if ever time I got in the car I turned to Jordan ‘Look at me! I’m DRIVING!’

I don’t even think about it.


Driving a car.

That’s the GOAL would be, that’s how the Christian life is.

We give, and we pray, and we forgive, and we love our enemies, and it’s no big deal. It’s just who we are.

It’s not ‘LOOK AT ME! I’m forgiving! It’s just what we do.

I believe that when we’re true to who God has made us, the world will notice.

Again, look at Mother Teresa – world famous. But not playing to the crowd. That’s one of the reasons it’s so inspiring to us.

Compare that to some politician who brags about giving 15 million dollars to charity. It’s like ‘Who Cares?’

How do we grow in this?


Of course it’s not by trying to NOT think about yourself. Don’t picture an elephant.

How you do it is by paying attention to something else.

1st: God. – 2nd : Others.

Not ‘What do you think about me?’

How can I help them, not myself?

Me – insecure preacher.

I was doing a wedding yesterday and preparing for this sermon. So here’s what I was trying to do yesterday: After the wedding, I tried to think ‘Wow! They look happy! What a great day.’ And NOT sitting around hoping people would compliment my ceremony. I know that the more I think about you, the less I think about myself as a preacher. And that’s a good thing. So much freedom there.

As we prepare for communion

Might shock: John Wayne – was not a real cowboy. Lived in Malibu.

The goal of the Christian faith is not be a great actor, it’s to be a real cowboy.

I don’t want people look at me and say ‘Man! That David guy! He can act like a Christian better than anybody!’

And I always remember that if I just come up here on the stage and play this part and it has nothing to do with who I actually AM, it doesn’t help anybody. And it can HURT all of you.

May our sermons be preached mostly, by the lives we live.

So much freedom in realizing that God doesn’t want you to be an actor. Let’s never come to church and be people we’re not.

Is there anything that has been more damaging to the cause of Christ than Christians pretending.

Chris Farley Documentary – So insecure. I watched not long ago a documentary about Chris Farley – So insecure. Very common – actors, like the big time ones, tend to be very insecure people. Very fearful.

People who are attracted to pretending a lot of the time – deep insecurity that Jesus wants to save you from.

Let’s be a community that’s filled with real life people. Then when people fall, we don’t feel awkward, because we not expecting people to be perfect.

No, we just go help them up.

Part of the salvation that I’m still growing is is being saved from the fear of what other people think.

So we come to the table.

And here at Outlet we’re obsessed with this being a moment where you’re not pretending to be something other than what you really are.

As they pass: Spend a moment remembering that He’s always there.