Summary: In the kingdom of God, it is no longer true that "whoever dies with the most toys wins.
Matthew 6:7-21 “A New Purpose in Life”
In Greek mythology Narcissus was a hunter from a territory in Central Greece who was renowned for his beauty. He was the son of a river god and a nymph. He was exceptionally proud, in that he disdained those who loved him. Nemesis, the god of revenge, noticed this behavior and attracted Narcissus to a pool, where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus drowned. From the story of Narcissus comes the term narcissism, a fixation with oneself.
Sociologists have noted that American culture increasingly encourages narcissism and self-centeredness. There is a trend towards focusing on our own desires and comforts instead of being aware of the needs of others. Workers have become more interested in what the company can do for them than what they can do for the company. Not to be outdone companies reflect a certain narcissism themselves. The world has changed from “One for all and all for one,” to “every man for himself.”
It is in this milieu that we disciples of Jesus Christ find ourselves. There has rarely been a time when the culture has been more at odds with the teachings of Jesus Christ. This is not because of the diverse elements that have entered our society, but rather because of the world’s influences on our perspective. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are challenged to live out our faith as people who are marching to the beat of a different drummer. How do we do that?
NOT ME BUT WE
We are not the first society whose people sought to call attention to themselves. Jesus makes reference in his Sermon on the Mount to people who called attention to their giving in their attempt to appear righteous. Jesus also comments on people who called attention to themselves by standing in the synagogues and street corners praying. One’s religion or walk of faith is not meant to call attention to one’s self.
Jesus proposes an alternative in the prayer that he teaches to his disciples. This is the prayer that we have come to call “The Lord’s Prayer.” Notice that the first person plural is used in this prayer. It is “Our Father,” and “Lead us not into temptation.” One way to combat the individualism in our lives is to understand that we are part of a community.
If you are like a majority of Christians, your prayers are usually centered on yourself. You confess your sins, give your thanks and make your requests. Jesus invites his followers to pray another way from a different perspective.
PRAYER AT THE CENTER
If we look at The Lord’s Prayer in the context of Jesus’ Sermon of the Mount, we see that it is located at the very center of the sermon. It is believed that this is intentional on the part of the writer. The gospel writer wanted to underscore that prayer is at the center of the Christian life.
We talk about our need as disciples of Jesus Christ to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. If we are to do this it is important that our spirituality moves from religiosity to relationship. We need to do more than simply go through a series of religious motions. One of the main ways that we nurture our relationship with God is that of prayer. Whether we pray silently, verbally or simply sit quietly in God’s presence, prayer enables us to draw closer to God. Prayer gets our focus off ourselves and turns it toward God.