Summary: When we forgive others we find that we let someone out of jail. But we are the ones who experience freedom.
“Get out of jail, Free”
Medical science has been telling us now for years that there is a very close relationship between physical illness and stress. That shouldn’t be hard for us to believe since when you go through a time of extended stress and difficulty, many times we become physically sick. I read this week in fact that it is possible that up to 80% of those who are currently hospitalized have a stress related illnesses. 80%.
Hospital chaplains have noticed also that many times there is a strong connection between the physical and spiritual. Jesus obviously knew this and we see this teaching being applied in the gospel of Matthew... Chapter 9. A man who was paralyzed is brought to Jesus on a mat. Jesus heals the man and the Bible says that he jumped up and went home. Amazing. But if you read the passage too quickly you will miss the words Jesus spoke to bring healing to the man.
Here they are. Jesus said, be encouraged my child, your sins are forgiven. Interesting words to speak to heal someone. Yet the words, your sins are forgiven are possibly the most powerful words we can speak to someone who has hurt us... Offended us, damaged us in any way. Jesus teaches on this topic of forgiveness on numerous occasions and the results are always powerful. In Matthew chapter 6, he addresses the topic again and it is here that He tells us how to pray and He concludes with a powerful statement about forgiveness. We need to look at all of these verses to fully understand what Jesus was saying. There are actually at least four topics he addresses here... Giving, praying, forgiving and fasting and He addresses them in that order. I want to look at each one briefly but want to focus on the topic of forgiveness. Because these topics have a definite connection.
(1) When you give, give with the right attitude. It would be easy for me as your pastor to simply say, “I don’t really care how you give, just as long as you give” but that’s not what the Bible teaches. When you give you must give with the right attitude. Here is the principle. When you give, give privately, not publicly.
Jesus is letting us know right off the bat that if we give for the purpose of being seen by others, to impress someone, to make some kind of righteous appearance-you will have no reward in heaven. This word reward runs through this passage like a red thread shows up on white material... In other words it is very obvious. Seven times we will see it today. It is a definite theme and it is the theme that seems to connect these passages. I don’t think most of us give expecting a reward but Jesus makes it clear that if we give with the right attitude there will be one. Notice two things he tells us specifically not to do when we give.
• Don’t give for public applause.
• Don’t tell others about your giving. Give in private.
In Jesus day, right at the entrance to the temple there were large metal containers, like a box, used to collect monetary gifts. The box had a type of funnel at the top, larger at the opening than at the bottom. It was made of metal. So if you were skilled and knew how to toss that coin in just the right way, it would ring out like a trumpet, as Jesus mentions here in verse two. It was very loud. Never give for the applause or approval of others. “Then,” He says, “don’t tell others.” Give privately. Don’t let others know how much you are giving. Give in secret. Then Jesus says and only then, will you be rewarded.
(2) How to pray. Jesus gives us two principles here to follow.
• Close the door and pray in private. Jesus wasn’t saying not to pray in public. Jesus prayed many times in front of others publicly. He was simply saying direct your prayers to the father, not to impress others. When you pray, direct your prayer to the father. Apparently there was a problem in that day with individuals standing out in public to pray to draw attention to themselves. Some even standing on the street corner to get attention.
• Don’t use a lot of words. After all God will not be impressed with your vocabulary. He uses the phrase here, don’t babble. If you recall the story of the Tower of Babel where the people decided to build a tower to stretch to the heavens, God intervened and caused them to speak in a variety of languages, stopping them from understanding one another and they had to stop the project. Babylon was given its name for this reason and we still today understand that babbling on and on using lots of words to impress-well you may impress yourself but not others. Amen? Amen!