Scripture To Consider:
“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds [acts of righteousness] 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 seen in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” Matthew 6.1-4

Something To Consider:
The ideal life that Jesus demands of those who are to enter His kingdom is tested by motive rather than by outward acts. This is true in matters of Christian concerns and or observances quite as much as in the acts which are demanded by the moral Old Testament Law. The real attitude toward God is certain to be expressed in some visible forms.

Among these the three most common are almsgiving or charitable giving, prayer, and fasting. Here the general principle for the followers of Christ must be that the motive is a desire to please God and not to secure praise of men. This is what is intended by the first verse of our text, “Take heed [or beware] that you do not do your charitable deeds [or acts of righteousness] before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

Jesus does not mean that there is any virtue in secrecy, but He does warn us against the publicity which seeks to secure admiration and praise. He does explain that any real expression of righteousness which is designed to be an act of worship must have its motive trust in God and perfect love toward Him. Otherwise, we are merely seeking a reward here on earth that will leave us without a reward in heaven.

This general principle is illustrated first, in the case of charitable giving. Jesus insists that these should not be attended with unnecessary publicity. He imagines the absurd case of a hypocrite, a mere actor, sounding a trumpet in the synagogue and in the streets to advertise his generosity and to attempt to secure the praise and glory of men. Such an expenditure of money and effort is not almsgiving or charitable deeds; it is bargaining with the hope of selfish gain. It is an investment of certain funds with a hope of securing full value in human praise and adulation.

It is perfectly possible to make such investments, according to Jesus, “Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” On the contrary, Jesus insists, “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” He does not mean here to forbid care and the giving of charity or in supporting Christian causes. He means however, to insist in our charitable giving, in our acts of righteousness, that our eyes are to be fixed upon God, and that we are not to seek for human praise and approval, but to remember, “And your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”

More Scripture To Consider:
“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites [self-righteous religious leaders]. 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.”

“But when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen [unbelievers] do. For they think 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 [holy] 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.” Matthew 6.5-15

Something Else To Consider:
The same principle applies to prayer. Only a hypocrite will be moved to worship by a desire to win the approval of men. Jesus has no criticism to pass upon public prayer. What He, of course, condemns, is an ambitious display to invite or to secure praise by the attitudes and forms of prayer. He counsels for secrecy, believing that it aids one in fixing the thought upon the Father, to who all prayer is rightfully to be directed.

According to Jesus, what the Father sees in secret He will reward us for openly. So too, vain repetitions are to be avoided. This does not mean that one never is to ask a second time for that which he or she needs; but it is a warning against the belief that prayer is magical and that by continued repeated recital like utterances of a request or routine prayer God can be compelled to grant what He otherwise might deny.

Jesus elsewhere encourages pressing persistence in prayer; but He here insists that vain repetitions are worthy only of unbelievers and are unnecessary for His true followers, for their Father knows what things they have need of even before they ask. James, the stepbrother of Jesus stated in James 4.2-3, “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss [or with the wrong motive], that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

To guide His followers in the true spirit and form of prayer, Jesus then suggested that this matchless prayer which is in itself a model, is a formula to follow, and a summary of all our rightful requests. We call it the Lord’s prayer. It contains six petitions: three specifically concern the cause and kingdom of our Father; three express our personal needs.

We pray that His name may be hallowed or considered holy, that His kingdom may come, and that His will may be done on earth as it is done in heaven. We then request provision for our daily needs, pardon for our continual sins, and protection from moral peril. Jesus suggests that our spirit must be that of humble forgiveness, and a willingness to overlook the offenses of others even as we expect our Father to forgive us.

More Scripture To Consider:
“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.” Matthew 6.16-18

Something More To Consider:
A third religious ritual which was very popular with the Jewish religious leaders, among whom Christ lived, was that of fasting. If this is practiced in order to show to God our sorrow for sin; or if it is involved in our devotion to His service, it is both right and commendable. But if it is employed as a means of winning the approval and praise of men, it is hypocrisy and pretense.

Jesus insisted that fasting, and all forms of self-denial, should be in secret. We are not to parade our sacrifices and we are not to make others aware of our devotion. We are to have regard only to the Father who is in secret, who sees what is done in secret, and who surely will reward as He sees fit in His own rightful and divine timing.

We should be wiser than the many or most who spend their waking moments merely seeking that which this world offers as earthly rewards. The fact remains that we will not take anything with us in our leaving this world through the inevitable portal of death. Therefore, why does mankind struggle so to obtain that which will not secure him or her one inch or one ounce of pleasure in eternity?

The answer, sadly to admit, is probably because many if not most, do not believe or have been deceived into believing there is no eternity beyond the grave. This is of course just the opposite of what the biblical record reveals. And yet, where and when this wrong earthly mentality exists, it breeds sadness, despair, and hopelessness.

When this demonic deception is allowed to cloud our judgments and to direct a person’s decision making, it is no wonder so many have so little to look forward to. Therefore, greed and self-indulgence literally drive a person to continue the insidious cycle of grabbing for all the glittering gusto in life they can obtain, as if the one who dies with the most money, the most stuff, the most of whatever wins. Nothing can be further from the truth of Scripture, and Jesus’ warning here in His Sermon on the Mount discourse.

A Few Final Words:
According to Jesus, “…when you do a charitable deed…” do it with the proper motivation of blessing another human being rather than oneself, recognizing that our heavenly Father sees all and will indeed reward us openly and accordingly. But even that must not be our motive! Also, according to Jesus, “…and when you pray…” not if you pray, “…you shall not be like the hypocrites.” Prayer is private communication between true believing sons and daughters of Almighty God our heavenly Father.

Therefore, true prayer should always acknowledge God the Father as just that, God, our Father in heaven. Prayer should be related to God’s kingdom and God’s will, and never about our kingdom and or our will. And finally, prayer must never be forgotten that it is a biblical means of seeking forgiveness for our sins in and through Jesus Christ.

In Closing:
If prayer is not these things, then we will not be heard for our much speaking. We have been given a heavenly treasure in earthly vessels in the form of prayer. Let us, therefore, never consider prayer too lightly or as if a burden. Prayer is an earthly privilege for those of a heavenly mindset!

Let’s Pray:
Our Father in heaven, thank You for revealing to us the importance of proper prayer and Christian concerns for us to consider as servants of Jesus our King. Thank You for also instructing us as true followers of Jesus concerning the scriptural precepts that please You Father. Teach us what it means to pray in secret. Teach us what it means to seek first Your kingdom. And forgive us our sins in and through Jesus. In Him Always, Amen!

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