09 March 2010

Jesus Teaches about How People of the Kingdom Serve

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.  But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“Pray then in this way:
Our Father 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 rescue us from the evil one.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Matthew 6:1-18


After Jesus teaches the blessed ones how they are to follow the Father's Law in relation to one another, he now teaches them how they are to follow the Father's Law in relation to the Father himself.
We are told in the Holy Scriptures that God is a jealous God and he demands strict loyalty to all who would worship Him.  This seems a rather odd attribute for a heavenly Father who we see as loving and kind.  But, when we wisely and humbly look at the times when we have served another as our King, we can see that reminding us that he is a jealous God is quite loving indeed.  
Worse still is when we pretend to serve our heavenly Father while using that same service to please an earthly master.   If you knew someone was using your friendship simply to gain the favour of the person they really cared about, how would you react?  And you are not even the giver of all life.
When Jesus came to Israel, it was a very religious culture.  There were holy festivals and holy days that were a part of the culture.  People were encouraged to give offerings, to pray and to fast.  These are not bad things at all.  Jesus, however, teaches all within the sound of his voice that it is critical to remember why they are practicing these 'acts of righteousness'.  Why do we give?  Why do we pray?  Why do we fast?
The way of Jesus, the way of our heavenly Father, is a simple matter of the heart.  He wants all of our hearts.  We cannot have divided loyalties.  We should not give in order to win the hearts and minds of men who will applaud us for how good we are.  At the end of the day, so what?  We give because we realise that all the blessings of this life that we enjoy are gifts from the King.  Therefore, we pay him tribute in order to thank Him for the things we do enjoy.  It is not ours.  It is the King's.  And the King tells us to be generous just as He is generous.
We should not pray in order for people to see how clever we are in our prayers.  At the end of the day, so what?  We pray because we seek an audience from our Father who loves us and enjoys spending time with us.  We pray because we understand that to have communication with anyone, let alone our Father in heaven, is to have relationship with them.  And, what's beautiful about our Father is we don't have to address him in a certain language that he has given to just a few.  All he asks for is respect and we address him with simple respect.
We should not fast in order for others to see the strength of our resolve and write books about our discipline.  At the end of the day, so what?  We fast in order to set our minds on the fact that our Father is the giver of life and that we trust what he gives or takes from us.  Fasting is a holy way to flush out all the nonsense of a world obsessed with what it sees.
Our Father in Heaven, I want to serve you only.  Please forgive me when I serve someone or something else.

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