“Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them.If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”Matthew 6:1
This is one of those places in the Bible that should carry a warning label, “Beware: Tough Love Ahead.”On the one hand, Jesus encourages me to help others, and perform “random acts of kindness;”on the other, I feel like He is beating me up because doing good deeds makes me feel so good that I want to do it over and over again.How do I balance the command to do good works with doing those things for all the right reasons?Aren’t you just a little bit motivated to do it again when someone else recognizes you for your good deeds?Yeah, unfortunately, so am I.
As we tackle Matthew 6, there are two words which need our attention.
1.Seen, v. 1 - The Greek word looks like this:“theatomi.”Carve out the first five letters and what English word/s does it look like?If you said “theater,” or “theatrical” you would be correct!It is warning us not to be like an actor on a stage as if we are putting on an exhibition.
2. Hypocrite, vv. 2, 5, 16 -In classical Greek, it was used to refer to an actor on a stage that masks his real identity and assumes a role. This person plays a part that isn't the truth about his life. He assumes an identity which is other than genuine.
A school was recently in the news because an anonymous donor donated a gift of millionsof dollars.Is that what Jesus meant by “so that your giving may be done in secret?”Yes!But the Jews sounded the trumpets so that everyone would know when they practiced their alms-giving.You and I know that hypocrisy exists everywhere, in our families, among our neighbors, in congress, and even among the most religious people we know.It is hypocritical to live a phony lifestyle, pretending to be one thing, but deep down where no one sees but you and God there is something else going on.When this hypocrisy doctrine was put into practice in the fledgling church (Acts 5) it reflected the serious relationship between our giving habits and God’s intolerance of our hypocritical ways.Ananias and Sapphira pretended to give a certain amount to the fellowship, but they had actually held back a portion for themselves.Nothing would have been wrong with keeping something for themselves had they not lied about it.But their phony commitment ended in their deaths.
Beloved, this is not just about our money.Jesus encourages us to practice good stewardship of all our resources:money, talents, spiritual gifts, time, etc.And He wants others to see and notice that someone cares enough about their needs to give sacrificially.But our generosity should be practiced so that the world will glorify God, not that they will be impressed with us!If we give because we desire the praise of man, our hypocritical motive will result in the fleeting satisfaction that someone noticed.But if we are stripped of phony, self-righteousness in our lifestyle, our eternal reward will far outlive the applause of the world.
GospeLines Prayer:Father, as a writer, show me the difference between being motivated by hypocrisy and having the desire to hear words of encouragement from the audience.I disdain the thought of seeking the praise of the world, but when I get feedback from readers, I know that I have at least scratched where it itches instead of being a constant irritation that will only alienate a fragile Christian.Give me greater patience and love for those who join me in this struggle to distance ourselves from phony living and counterfeit Christianity.Amen and amen.
Sometime today, please take another look at this passage of scripture,Matthew 6:5-14, NIV, or click on the link and it will take you to it.In these verses you will find “The Lord’s Prayer,” which could arguably be named “The Disciple’s Prayer.”Nevertheless, it is one scripture that is known by people of all faiths, and people of no faith.It is quoted daily by Christians and non-Christians around the world, before sporting events and examinations in school, by patients in hospitals, prisoners in prison cells and disciples in prayer cells.It is universal in its geographical scope and religious infiltration.But look how it is introduced by the verses which precede it.In many commentaries, the title given to verses 5-8 is “How Not to Pray,” then followed by “The Model Prayer,” verses 9-14 .This contrast should sound a warning to Christians about our own prayer life; in the next few weeks we will look closely at the Lord’s Prayer, but today we must look at the danger of hypocrisy in prayer.
No nation had a higher opinion of prayer than the Jews, but obviously the Pharisees got it wrong again.Already in this chapter their hypocrisy was exposed in their almsgiving (vv. 1-4) , and now we see they practiced a phony prayer life as well, not because they neglected prayer but because their devotion to it was misguided.The Jews prayed formal prayers at special times: before 9 a.m. and before 9 p.m.; and three more times per day they were supposed to recite the eighteen prayers known as Shemoneh ‘esreh.They had prayers for all occasions:upon entering or leaving a city; prayers in connection with the rain, the fire, the light, comets, at the sight of the sea, the rivers, and lakes.They had a tendency for long prayers and repetitious prayers.And they prayed to be seen of men in the most public places, with hands outstretched and arms raised high above their heads.Loudly they would pray when the time for prayer arrived, no matter where they were.Some would be sure that at the scheduled prayer time they could be seen by the most people so everyone would know of their piety.Is it no wonder that Jesus warned about the hypocrisy of prayer?Surely there were some Jews who were glad to hear our Lord say, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father…” (v. 6)
Beloved, your prayer time is sacred.Guard it well.There is a prescription for prayer in the verses to come, but before we enter into that discussion, please take note of these questions:how often has our own prayer time become like that of the Pharisees?What about the prayers at meal time?Are they the same old rehearsed words you have used over and over?When you pray before bedtime, is it a moment when you really connect with God, or does it just reflect your hurried lifestyle and you cannot wait until you finish so you can fall asleep?Over the next few weeks we will study prayer, but my real hope is that during this time we will learn to walk closer to God through a renewed prayer life.Thank you for taking the journey with me… let us pray.
GospeLines Prayer:Father, I know that prayer is personal, that we should pray like we are in conversation with You.Others may freak out when they read my prayers, but that’s how You and I talk, we just work things out and sometimes it makes sense only to the two of us!Lord, if nothing else happens over the next several devotionals, please, just teach us to pray.Amen and amen.
There are two great building blocks which form the foundation for the Christian life:one is the careful study of God’s Word and the other is prayer.Prayer is our speaking to God and reading the Bible is God speaking to us.The Psalmist instructed us to meditate on the Word of God day and night (Psalm 1:2), and the apostle Paul said that we should pray non-stop (1 Thessalonians 5:17 ).Jesus doesn't teach us about the posture of prayer because any posture will do.In the Bible people prayed standing, lifting up their hands, sitting, kneeling, lifting up their eyes, bowing down, placing their head between their knees, pounding on their breast, or facing a temple.He doesn't tell us anything about the place of prayer:people in the Bible prayed in battle, in a cave, inside a fish, in a closet, in a garden, on a mountainside, by a river, by the sea, in the street, and in God's house.He doesn't tell us about the times of prayer.Jesus says we are to pray after this manner, “Our Father who art in Heaven” (Matthew 6:9 KJV).
And why does it begin that way?Because God is the focus of prayer; it begins with the recognition that God is our Father.The word “OUR” is not universal as some would want us to believe, but it refers ONLY to the true children of God, Christians, those who are believers!This is not a liberal reference to the universal Fatherhood of God; God isn’t everybody’s Father except as it references creation.“OUR” says that we are not alone, but that we are part of a larger community who follows the same pathway in this world.Hallelujah!
What does it mean that He is our Father?
1.It removes fear.Unlike the heathen, they are afraid of their gods.
2.It provides hope.We are to obey our Father who has paid the consequences of sin on our behalf, through His Son.Praise God!
3.It does away with loneliness.Sin separates us from everything and everyone who is decent.But our Father has pulled us together again in a family of believers.
4.It settles the matter of resources.There isn’t much to draw from in this bankrupt world, which is devoid of love, joy, and happiness.But look!He is not of this world:“Our Father, who art in Heaven!”Oh, what a great thought:we pray to a Father who has eternal resources.
So to begin a prayer, "Our Father, which art in heaven," is to indicate my eagerness to come as a beloved child to a loving Father, to receive all that His love can possibly give me in this lifetime as well as the life that is to come.
GospeLines Prayer:Thank you, Father, that I am not still wandering in the crowd, but that I am now Your child.I am grateful that you respond when we say daddy, papa, Abba in intimacy, because You care.We are not just subjects in Your Kingdom, or servants, or friends, but You made us sons and daughters!Amen and amen.