Summary: Let’s explore our motives in public acts of worship.
How should we give in public? How should we pray in public? How should we fast in public? Purpose: Let’s explore our motives in public acts of worship. Plan: Let’s look Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 and Jesus’ discussion of public religious duties.
Matthew 6:1-4 Public Giving
Jesus said to let our light shine before others so that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16), but then he said, “do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them.” (Matthew 6:1). Is there a contradiction? The key is our motive. Is our purpose to show off or give God the glory? If our desire is to boast, better to give anonymously. If our motive it to glorify our Father in heaven or that others may believe (John 11:41-42), good. If we are in doubt about our motive, it may be better to give in secret.
Matthew 6:5-6 Public Prayers
Why did Jesus teach us “when you pray, go into your room”? He prayed in public. But, his motive was that they may believe (Matthew 14:19; John 11:41-42). Our public prayers may never be totally devoid of wrong motives. Public prayers can be manipulative, gossipy, tedious, trite, irrelevant, repetitive and even self-righteous. Yet, prayer is important. Churches are houses of prayer. Jesus taught us not to pray like hypocrites whose motives were to be seen. Public prayer is a necessary and difficult task for imperfect humans. So, we pray in humility knowing that our thoughts will not be perfect like Jesus’ and we must overlook each other’s faulty prayers.
Matthew 6:16-18 Public Fasting
Fasting has been used for religious purposes, political manipulation and weight control. Health benefits of fasting are disputed. Jesus entered the debate affirming that Christians fast, “when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance.” After Jesus fasted we are told that he was hungry, not thirsty. It is apparent that he did take fluids. Those 40 days gave rise to the Christian tradition of Lent, a period of prayer, abstinence and almsgiving before Resurrection Sunday. Most Christians do not fast as Jesus did, but abstain from something that is symbolic of fasting. Throughout the year, Christians take an occasional day to fast and pray in private.
Matthew 6:19-21 Private Getting
Wealth does not indicate spirituality. Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth… but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” He did not teach a lifestyle of acquisitions. Society worships those with wealth. Jesus taught the opposite, to give to the needy, pay generous wages, and make fair business deals. Where our money is, reveals where our hearts are. We must make a choice. Do we use money as a tool for good, or do we worship it as an idol? How we invest our treasures on earth is directly linked to how great our reward in eternity will be. Are we investing in heaven or earth?
Pure religion involves properly motivated giving, prayer and fasting. What’s in our hearts? What motivates us?
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2007. Print.
Wilkins, Michael J. Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004. Print.