Summer on the Mount: Week 7
By: Reality SF
Welcome and Opening Prayer:
Welcome the group and open with our Generosity Prayer, which we pray during our Sunday gatherings on a monthly basis.:
“Godliness with contentment is great gain. We bring nothing into this world, and we take nothing out of it. We who call Jesus Lord devote ourselves to resisting greed, which plunges the human heart into ruin, and pierces it with many griefs. We are determined to practice generosity with free hearts, fixing our hope on God and not the uncertainty of wealth. We desire to be rich in good deeds and willing to share all that we have, laying up for ourselves treasure that will not decay but will shine in the age to come.”
Discuss: When we say this prayer in our Sunday gathering, what does it mean to you? Which lines stood out to you this time?
Practicing Righteousness in Secrecy:
This week focuses on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:1-4, which focuses on the temptation to live righteously in order to perform for others’ admiration versus in secret for the Father’s reward. The actions of Jesus’ disciples are meant to be motivated at a heart level by the desire to please the Father, not other people. But our motivations can be complex and hard to pin down, especially when it comes to religiously acceptable actions. One writer puts it this way:
Generally accepted religious practices (such as almsgiving, prayer, and fasting) serve a double function, connecting people with God and also establish a social norm. Because such practices establish a social norm, one’s honor and reputation in society become intimately connected with such religious activities. This is a recipe for disaster, as this makes it easy for pious practices to get directed not toward God but toward establishing one’s safety and security in society. (1)
The word righteousness is found a total of five times in the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5:6, 5:10, 5:20, 6:1, and 6:33. Read these verses aloud, and if necessary, read some of the surrounding verses before and after each for context.
Discuss: What does Jesus mean by practicing righteousness?
Practicing Righteousness through Giving:
Remember, the Sermon on the Mount is all about Jesus getting to the heart of things. He uses illustrations to describe what is to naturally flow from the heart of His followers. Consider Dallas Willard’s description of this passage and “don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing:”
…Jesus points beyond action to the source of action in character. This is a general principle that governs all he says. The kind of people who have been so transformed by their daily walk with God that good deeds naturally flow from their character are precisely the kind of people whose left hand would not notice what their right hand is doing—as, for example, when driving one’s car or speaking one’s native language. What they do they do naturally, often automatically, simply because of what they are pervasively and internally. These are people who do not have to invest a lot of reflection in doing good for others. Their deeds are “in secret” no matter who is watching, for they are absorbed in love of God and of those around them. They hardly notice their own deed, and rarely remember it. (2)
- Have you ever known or interacted with a person who was this naturally generous? What was it like to be around them?
- In what areas of your life do you tend to have a natural generosity? What areas of your life do you find generosity and the giving which Jesus describes here difficult?
- Take an honest look at your heart for a moment. In the areas where you find it hard to be giving, ask yourself, “Why?” What internalized beliefs, thoughts, or past experiences hold you back from being generous in these areas?
Read Matthew 7:24-27:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Jesus culminates His Sermon on the Mount with this parable about the importance of practically applying His teaching. Split into pairs and discuss, support, and then pray.
- What stood out to you from today’s discussion and from Sunday’s sermon?
- What are practical ways you can apply what you noticed? (For example, is there a conversation to have, a commitment to make, or request for help you need to make?)
The sermon next Sunday, July 23rd, will be on Matthew 6:5-18. In order to be prepared for Sunday’s sermon and CG next week, try to read these four verses daily and take note of how they resonate with you.
- Andrej Kodjak, A Structural Analysis of the Sermon on the Mount
- Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy