Yesterday we talked about verse one of this chapter but the entire chapter is filled with guidance as to how to live, how to think, and deals with our public and private lives. It is quite an involved and powerful passage and is filled with incredible benefit if we will incorporate the instructions into our lives.
Jesus said in verse one that we are to guard against practicing our righteousness publicly for the purpose of recognition and to elicit personal praise and human flattery. God, according to our Lord, finds that offensive and turns His back on it. If you value the opinion of men more than the opinion of God, then fail to heed the warning or instruction. However, if you value God’s opinion more than anything else, then heed the warning and follow the instruction. It will not be easy and you will find times you must resist the temptation to ‘toot your own horn’ or get someone to ‘toot it for you’ to bring you recognition.
Next, our LORD addresses Benevolence. This is particularly personal for me both in my own life and experiences I have had in leading congregations through the years. I have, more than once, had someone come to me and say, “I’m going to buy this or that for the church or give this or that, but I do not want any personal recognition.” That sounded wonderful, but when I allowed the gift to remain anonymous I soon became aware that what they said and what they wanted were not the same. They wanted recognition but made the apparent ‘self-effacing’ statement hoping that I would violate their confidence ignoring their request and publicly praise them. I considered doing so an ethical violation in which I could not participate and it cost me. It has always been my desire to do acts of benevolence anonymously. What I do in secret God will reward openly, but even if He did not my gift or act was not for personal recognition but because I Love God and want to help those He directs to help. Each time I have decided to give a gift or engage in an act of benevolence I ask myself, “Why are you doing this? Is it because God has directed you and in what I am doing out of a pure motive to bring honor and glory to Him?” I fully understand that the benefit to the person to whom we act in benevolence will be positive even if we are doing it for a wrong motive, but the greater blessing and benefit will be if we do it according to God’s prescribed method. Is your life about you or about Him?
Then, Jesus addressed the matter of Praying. This is troubling in some ways because I have found that in order to inspire others to pray, I have sometimes felt the need to be visible in prayer and thereby call attention to my praying. That can be done discreetly without making a fanfare in the public arena and do as the Pharisees virtually saying, “Look at me and see how pious I am and how much I pray.” Jesus said, “When you pray…” Do not do so to be seen and do not use vain repetitions, but find a place to be alone with God and follow the guide of what we call the Lord’s Prayer:
“Our Father who is 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 also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and power and glory forever. Amen.”
In this prayer, in our closet, we recognize God and His Majesty and then when we are in public we can offer that recognition and praise with a pure heart. We are to pray for God’s kingdom, purpose, will, and harvest and seek to come into full alignment with His purposes, plan, and will. We follow the directive to FORGIVE in recognition that our forgiveness is so much greater than any offense we may have endured in our lives. We know that God does not tempt and the prayer to not be led into temptation can be linked to the revelation that if we face something that is beyond our ability to endure, God provides a door of escape. We pray that God will build a hedge of protection around us and when the enemy comes in like a flood He will raise up a standard against the enemy. We are to learn to take on the Whole Armor of God so that we can withstand. We praise God and we offer thanksgiving to Him. If we begin our day in that mindset and practice, I am fully confident that He will guide our lives and what we do will not flow from a wrong motive but for the righteous purpose of LIFTING HIM UP!
God, bless you greatly is my prayer as you fulfill your assignment for this day!