RIGHTEOUS LIVING THAT PLEASES GOD
Wednesday, 5 June 2019
Matthew 6 : 1-15
“…and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” -Matthew 6:4
We live in a world which is constantly striving to accomplish great feats and driven to earn recognition and popularity. It was the same in the days of Jesus, when the Pharisees and religious leaders went about public places displaying outwardly acts of godliness with the intent to earn praises from the people around them. They wore haggard looks while fasting, made a grand display of giving alms to the poor and prayed elaborate prayers to show how pious they were. Jesus rebukes such people living double lives and calls them ‘hypocrites!’ He repeatedly reminds us that such people have already received the reward they were seeking.
In the ‘Sermon on the Mount’, Jesus begins His discourse in Matthew Chapter 5 by instructing on a disciple’s outward conduct, but in Chapter 6 Jesus instructs on the inward attitude or motives that should prompt the outward acts.
Three fundamental principles of Christian living are emphasized in this portion:
Giving (Matt 6:1-4)
Praying (Matt 6:5-15)
Fasting (Matt 6:16-18)
When Jesus speaks about each of these three principles, He begins with a ‘when’ and not an ‘if’: ‘…when you give…’ (Matt 6:2), ‘When you pray…’ (Matt 6:5), ‘when you fast…’ (Matt 6:17). It implies that giving, praying and fasting should be a vital part of a believer’s life. However, we need to examine ourselves as to the intentions with which we apply these spiritual disciplines in our lives.
Is your offering like the widow’s two small copper coins (Mark 12:41-44), giving your all to the Lord with joy, or has it ever been like the offerings of the Pharisees, making a public spectacle to impress others? The intention with which you give matters. This was the sin of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) who in hypocrisy and deception gave only part of the money from the sale of their property, to earn praise from the brethren. The charitable deeds that please God are the giving that is prompted by a godly love for the needy and those less privileged.
In illustrating the intentions of the heart while praying, Jesus spoke the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14). The Pharisee prayed with a haughty spirit, speaking highly of himself, while the tax collector, with a contrite heart, humbled himself before God in prayer. This ought to be our attitude in prayer: humbling ourselves and spending a personal and private time of fellowship in the presence of the Lord. There is a reward for those who seek the Lord out of a pure heart. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3).
Just as Jesus criticizes the fasting of the Pharisees, the prophet Isaiah pointed out to Israel how they had made fasting into a vain and empty ritual that was displeasing to the Lord (Isaiah 58). Fasting is not to men, but to God. In fasting, our spirit connects with the Spirit of God. Unlike the Pharisees who fasted and made a public spectacle of it, let our fasting be personal, denying ourselves to spend a time of close communion with the Lord. The purpose of our fasting should be to draw nearer to the Lord and to seek His will.
Let us not strive to be people pleasers, but rather let all our thoughts and actions be from a pure heart for the glory and honor of the Lord.
Heavenly Father, forgive us for the times our acts
have been to please others. Let our prayer,
giving and fasting be done that we
may please and glorify You alone.
In Jesus’ name.
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