Matthew chapter 6: 1-21 (continued)
“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men.
Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”
And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. ‘Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
We ended last week with a challenge from the Lord to be more righteous than the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. These men were accused by Jesus of having an outward appearance of holiness but nothing on the inside to mimic their actions. What was really happening is this: They had trained to behave religiously outwardly but without any inner change spiritually. A lot of that going around, it is nothing new. It has been the plague of “religion” since the fall of man.
Adam and Eve put on manmade clothes to appear modest to a Holy God, but their covering could not mask their shame and sin—since that was an internal matter. Only God can clean the inside, only God-made coverings would suffice, and so God made Adam and Eve coats of skin to wear. This established two principles. 1. Only God can cover sin and 2. Blood had to be shed for God to do that.
Let me ask you about your internal man/woman? How is being a Christian changing the way you think? Most of us are worried about the way we act, but Jesus made it clear that if we let God change the way we think, the way we act will naturally follow—ultimately giving glory to God. Men how are your thoughts towards the ladies you see at work?
Young teens how are your thoughts about the “outcasts” at your school are you helping them or a part of the problem? Pastors, do you view your church as a blessing or a burden? Are we closet Christians? (We don’t want anyone to know that we are saved; they might think we are weird.) By the way, according to the standards of the world we are supposed to weird.
How do we feel about money? Is it our God? Does it serve us or do we serve it? These are the kinds of thoughts that God wants to change. What about your “arch rival” at work or the person that you just can’t stand? How are the principles of Christ and your surrender to the Holy Spirit helping you to see that person as a beloved potential child of God?
In this chapter of Matthew, Jesus is about to aggressively attack those who are outwardly religious, posing as such designed to get the attention of the people around you. The intent of these actions are never to bring God glory but to be thought of as “religious and/or pious,” thus b benefitting to oneself. God does not tolerate this kind of behavior as it flies in the face of the first commandment:
Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.”
You make yourself to be a god when you draw attention to you and not the Almighty. God frowns upon this kind of behavior.
Give and Pray Privately, Verses 1-7
We live in a world that loves accolades. We see money being given to charitable foundations every day. Men who give millions and even billions of dollars are lauded by the media, government officials and the world in the form of prizes and awards. This kind of giving is expected from lost men and women who have nothing in heaven to gain, so their rewards are the accolades of the men and women around them.
But as Christians are not to seek the accolades of men. We are to give and to do so with the simply goals of serving others and pleasing God. This should be enough. The same goes for prayer. We should not seek to be seen as articulate or educated or pious by our prayers. Our goal is simply to relay our needs and glorify God.
One should not deduce from these verses that all public prayer is bad or forbidden by God. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact there are many instances where Jesus gave thanks to God in the midst of great crowds, read the account so the feeding of the 5000 and 4000. But more often Jesus went off to pray by Himself, or He went a few yards away so that His prayers were private between him and His Father.
One can pray privately even in public. In Mark 12:41-44 we find that there is a poor widow who comes to give her offerings at the Temple. Jesus is observing her and while there are many rich people giving from their abundance, she discreetly, whether out of shame for the amount—or more probably out of sheer need as described by Jesus, gives her money.
No one noticed except God, and that was all that mattered. It is amazing for us to learn that even in the act of giving it is the inner-man that counts not the size of the check. Why you give is more important that what you give. God is not poor. He does not need your money to do His business. But we should give cheerfully as the Bible tells us to do, happy that God would allow us to have something to give.
Don’t give to get accolades from men and women. Simply give out of a deep gratitude that God would allow you to have money to give and the opportunity to do so. I read once that when one is blessed by God with more money, it should inspire us to give more rather than live better. Often God allows us both if we truly seek to honor Him. Money is simply a tool; we can just as well give time, goods, food, companionship and array of other gifts that we can use to honor God for His goodness to us.
The Model Prayer, Verses 8-14
How we should pray, not what we should pray is the true goal of this “Model Prayer.” Jesus simply gives us the structure by which we are to pray. We address God as our Father and confess His holiness. There is no reason to come to God if He is not good. Only a good God will hear the prayers of His people. We pray for God’s will to be done and for His kingdom on earth to come. We are called in the Scriptures to look forward to the Lord’s appearing; in fact there is a crown for that:
2 Timothy 4:8 -“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”
We can ask for all that we need or want on behalf of ourselves and others simply framed inside the “will of God.” The idea is that God will answer according to what He knows is best and we will be satisfied. We thank God for supplying our daily needs and He does so as He promised He would.
Matthew 6:31-34 – “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Then we are to seek forgiveness as we forgive others. This is the most important part of the prayer for us, forgiveness. We all need it from God and others, but we are often slow to give it. God hates a lack of forgiveness among His people; it is an insult and a mockery of His grace. We ask for God’s deliverance from sin and temptation. We attest to God’s glory and we end.
This can be a short prayer and long prayer; it can be sung, said or written. It is to be sincere and with reverence to the Lord in heaven. It is not to be a mantra or some kind of ritual. There is nothing wrong with it being either spontaneous or scheduled.
Daniel scheduled prayers each day. Jesus seemed, as we see the Bible, to take an early morning approach, but in deep distress the late night approach worked for Him as well. The simple instruction is pray, pray often and pray right. God will hear and answer your prayers.