Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, we thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.
“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.” — Matthew 6:1 (NIV)
What motivates your good deeds? What is more important? That you give the appearance of knowing God? That people consider you to be a Godly person? Or that you personally and intimately know God?
Many of us have seen the couple who, when they are out in public, appear to have the best relationship and to be head over heels in love with each other only to find out days later that the relationship has been falling apart for a long time and has now reached the end of the road. Let’s not give the falsification of knowing and loving God, but let’s have true, authentic relationship together with Him.
“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 honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” — Matthew 6:2-4 (NIV)
It can be very humbling to be in the place of need. Who are we really trying to benefit when we give? Are we putting our generosity out in public so people will regard us well? Or are we discreetly giving to the needy so as not to draw undue attention to their position of need? In other words, do we honor the needy, or do our selfish acts of giving humiliate them? Let’s not rob the poor of their dignity in order to feed our pride.
“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. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” — Matthew 6:5-6 (NIV)
Sometimes, we want so badly for people (typically other Christians…at church) to see us as having a close relationship with Jesus that we’ll eloquently compose a beautiful prayer in the presence of those we wish to impress, while in the privacy of our own bedrooms we have not spent time developing relationship with Father.
Have you ever been popular or a guest of honor and had people you don’t know come up to you and talk to you as if you were good friends? You start to get the idea that they’re hoping to make themselves look more important in the eyes of others. It just feels fake. Do you see what I am saying?
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 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.” — Matthew 6:16-18 (NIV)
Ah, fasting….the dreaded abstain from food. We consider fasting such a sacrifice that we begin to think ourselves extra holy and perhaps a bit radical when we are doing it. And, of course, the more people who know about this great sacrifice we are making, the more significant we esteem it. And the smaller our stomach shrinks, the bigger our head grows.
No. This shouldn’t be. It’s not about us. It’s all about God. All of our worship, our giving, our prayer, our fasting, our sacrifices. They’re not about us. The Kingdom of God is not a “me” society.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” — Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)
Whose kingdom are we working to expand? Do we pour our wealth into the largest house we can afford with the most beautiful furnishings, making sure that our children are in the most and best extra-curricular teams and lessons and activities that our schedule can possibly fit, driving the nicest car on the block, wearing the latest fashions, dining out any day of the week, and taking our families on the most luxurious vacations? None of that is eternal, and it focuses our hearts on ourselves. What would the body of Christ look like? What would we be capable of if we realized that our worth does not come from all of our “stuff” and if we all lived humbly with very modest means and invested our wealth into the Kingdom of God? What if it were said about us, “there were no needy persons among them?” (Acts 4:34)
Let’s do this, family. Let’s live the Kingdom life together, bringing glory and honor to Father who sees us and loves us.