Matthew 6:1 – “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. 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 honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 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.
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. 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. 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. (NIV)
The story is told of two brothers, both of whom took an oath to share the gospel with someone every day. One night, one of the brothers realized just before he went to bed that he had not shared the gospel with anyone that day. Quickly he got dressed and ran into the street and shared the gospel with the first person he saw, and wouldn’t you know it just happened to be his pastor! The question this story begs is this – what are our motives for our acts of righteousness? The reading for today is all about having the right motives.
Jesus takes it for granted that his followers would be practicing righteousness, but warns them about doing so in order to be seen. He assumed his followers would be giving to the needy (verse 2), and he assumed his followers would be people of prayer (verse 5). We need to be people who live righteously, but we must continually check our motives.
Let us note that Jesus was not condemning public worship when he said to go into a private place to pray (verse 6). The gospels give us plenty accounts of Jesus attending synagogue and the temple. Jesus was, however, making the point that our prayers should be heartfelt communication between God and ourselves, and that our giving should be done out of true love and generosity. Any act of righteousness or religiosity that is performed with the intent of letting others take notice of ourselves is the wrong motive. Christians should be seen and heard, but our motive for being seen and heard is not to draw attention to ourselves, but to God.
Today, let us pray for pure hearts and pure motives. Let us seek to show Christ to others, and let’s pray that Christ overshadows ourselves.
Posted by Ramón Torres