These are my daughters, Zoe and Irene. Irene, just 4, spontaneously started praying and thanking God for the Rhine Falls in Switzerland, seen in the background. She then realized that we were photographing her, but continued unfazed, with, however, the tiniest smile on her face. “She is praying as the hypocrites do,” Roy said, but I think God smiled too.
1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
That’s really scary. If we are righteous merely to be seen by other, we will have no reward from our Father in heaven.
I would say that the key word, the key principle, of the Sermon on the Mount is faith. Should we be good to receive praise from men, or be quietly good, and receive a reward from our Father in heaven?
Praise from men is immediate and gratifying. To believe that we will receive a reward from our heavenly father takes faith. Will it be now? Or later? What form will it take?
Personally, I would love to receive a reward from my heavenly Father, both in this life, and in the life to come.
And I am cool with any reward he gives me—whether the practical desires of my heart (travel, sufficient money, health, success in my work, an increasingly happy marriage, successful and Christian children) or more importantly, his spiritual gifts—joy, peace, love, contentment. And the former are worth little without the latter.
2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
So, if you work for the praise of men, you do get a reward (or no one would do it.)
You’ve fooled people into thinking you are the real deal, and have got your reward from them in terms of their good opinion (in full).
You do not get the exponential blessings of the Father in this life, or later.
3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Again, the demand of faith.
Be generous, but don’t let a soul know what you have done. Nobody will be impressed with you.
But your Father who has seen what you have done secretly will reward you, openly, it says in some versions
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
Hypocrite, play-actor, like the Greek actors who put a mask over their face when they were acting.
Don’t be a prayer-meeting bore. Don’t be a hypocrite. Don’t stand up and bore everyone with long-winded prayers, losing tracking of your audience in your display of your own compassion and wisdom. Don’t pray to be seen and to impress. Don’t worry about the impression you create when you pray. In fact, don’t pray in public without putting your prayers through the sieve of strict honesty. Are you addressing God or impressing your audience?
Will you have a reward? Will people be impressed with you? Yeah. You’ll have your reward, such as it is, in full. However, these prayers will never make it to your heavenly Father.
But then perhaps they were not intended to!
6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
You do it in secret, when there are hundreds of lucrative, pleasurable, career-boosting things you could be doing instead of praying.
But God sees and values the time you have spent with him, and if, we choose to pray, in secret, he will give us a reward.
A reward!! From God!! That’s truly exciting. Whatever he may choose to give us.
Blessed is the one whom GOD rewards.
7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Let your prayers be short, brief, and to the point, since you are speaking to someone who knows your needs anyway.
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
hallowed be your name,
May your name be revered.
10 your kingdom come,
Let us see your beautiful kingdom in our lives, and in the world around us.
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Help me to do your will. And may it be done on earth as it is in your heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
Give us what we need to stay full alive, in mind, body and soul
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Wipe our sins off your books, as we wipe the sins of those who sin against us off our books.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
Protect us from temptation, for you know how weak we are. Temptation can also be translated as testing or trials.
but deliver us from the evil one.
The phrase tou ponerou can mean either evil or the evil one, Satan. ESV note, “The best protection from sin and temptation is to turn to God and to depend on his direction.”
And in particular, deliver us from the power of the evil one.
Here’s a longer blog post I did on The Lord’s Prayer.
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
If we do not write off other people’s weakness, treachery, and perfidy, our Father will also hold our sins against us. And then, who would stand?
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Do you want the rewards of God? Then fast–in secret.(This is a spiritual discipline I’ve never learnt!)
Live under the eyes of God. Do things to be seen only by God. Be rewarded by God.
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
Elsewhere Jesus says,“Do not work for food which perishes, but for food which endures to eternal life.” We often have a choice as to whether we will spend our energy on things which will bring us more money, or things which will be rewarded in heaven (prayer and giving, for instance).
Do not pile up money, for there is a risk that your heart will be where your money is. Do not make your money your treasure. It can be lost.
Break your focus on your bank balance. How?
I ask the Holy Spirit to come and flood my heart and mind and spirit when I find myself thinking too much about money—how much I have, how much I should have, how much I have coming in, how to make more.
Store nothing? That’s one way to live. I don’t have the stomach for that. At present, when I find money entering my thoughts over-much I pray for the Spirit to invade my mind instead. If it becomes a serious problem, there is nothing like increasing one’s giving to break the hold of money on your mind.
20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Store up treasures—of love, of goodness, of good deeds—in heaven.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Your emotional life and love and desires will inevitably be caught up with what you treasure, whether it’s your bank balance or your God. Or success, or your blog or your writing or social/churchly success or the idol du jour.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
If you focus on glorious things, your whole being will be suffused by light.
If you focus on unhealthy things, your soul, your spirit, will be in darkness. Oh no!!
Focus on the light instead. This takes a deliberate effort—a deliberate flipping out of the tape, and replacing it.
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Serve, douleo, implies the work of a slave. A slave can only belong to one master.
We cannot love two things with all our hearts, with all our minds, and with all our spirits. So we have to choose. It’s either God—or money. Or all the things which come under the dominion of the devouring God Mammon—success, fame, wealth, reputation.
Oh Lord, Lord, Lord, let it be you. First of all, you are lovely, and you can fill my spirit with joy. Secondly, you can give me all the money I need, but money cannot give me as much of you as I need! Or any of you!