19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light,23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6)
Jesus had just given us instructions on how to pray, including an expression of dependence on God to know and provide for what we need. He knows our tendency to live by want rather than need. He also knows our tendency to not trust God to provide, and thus pile up reserves beyond necessity, in case He bails on His promises. These tendencies lead to our slavery to stuff, where we trust in stuff rather than Him; we live life for stuff rather than Him. At first glance, the middle paragraph above may seem out of place, stuck in between the two we have referred to in an awkward way. But it really is the heart, the meat of the sandwich. It is the lust of the eyes - we see and we want, that we are seeking to fulfull, but we find the stuff sandwich unfulfilling, leaving us empty and enslaved to the stuff we pursue. Sad to say, that is where we find many professing believers in our society - slaves to seeking stuff instead of trusting and serving God. Is that you? It's time to stop eating stuff sandwiches and come to His table to be filled, trusting Him, seeking Him, serving Him.
16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6) So few of us fast these days (at least for spiritual reasons) that it may be lost on many of us what Jesus is trying to say. Having just talked about prayer, it is the next logical step to talk about prayer with fasting. Like the other things He has been addressing, there is always the temptation to make a show of one's spirituality - to give the appearance of holiness and devout faith. Of course the audience of such activity is not the Audience of One, but of as many as possible. We want people to be impressed with how spiritual we are. True hunger hurts, but when we are fasting to draw closer to God, He feeds us so well that it is not seen for the joy that He gives within. We are to go through life as "normal", so that if any attention is drawn to us - if anything seems "abnormal" - it reflects back to Him and His great grace. So when we worship today (or the next time we are not frozen in...) may we do so for the audience of One, whether we are singing, praying, or even fasting.
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6) After giving His "How-To-Pray" instructions, Jesus pauses to pull out one point of all those He has made. This is not fine print at the bottom of the page, but obviously of major importance. If we get nothing else out of His example prayer, it is this: Make sure you are forgiving other. Earlier He had talked about making sure we are forgiven by those we have offended; here He reminds us to make sure we are not building up bitterness in our hearts. It hinders our relationship with God and ability to fellowship with Him. We need to allow Him to interrupt us when we pray: "Father, forgive me", to hear Him say: "have you forgiven ________......?" I cringe whenever I hear anyone say "I could never forgive him for what he did?" Never is a long time to not be forgiven. Reread Jesus' words: They are not in fine print; they stand out in BOLD PRINT.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Notice that Jesus did not say: "Pray This", but pray LIKE this. In Luke's presentation of the Gospel, this is placed in response to the disciples asking Jesus HOW to pray. We need to pray worshipfully - acknowledging God as Soveriegn and able to respond to us. He is wise enough to know what is best. We are not the center of the universe. We are to pray jointly - with oneness of spirit with others: Give and Forgive US, Lead US, Deliver Us. We are also to pray with a reality and humility the expresses our vulnerability: we fail and we fall, needing His help desperately. If we will just follow the how of prayer, then what to pray will easily fall into place. We will have no lack of things to talk with God about. He will have an earful, and we will have our hearts full.
5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.6 But when 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. 7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6)
It's interesting here that Matthew records the instructions we have for what we call "The Lord's Prayer" in the context of Jesus' correcting the disciples' concept of prayer. They had seen it done wrongly so much they did not know how to "do it right." Simply put: Do not pray to be seen or heard. Of course, if you are praying with others (which we are told and also given examples that this is a good thing), then others will see and hear our prayers. The point is that we are not going to impress God with what we say or how we look, and we should not try to impress others. Praying is more about listening than talking. Praying is believing that God is listening, and not that we we need to get His attention: we already have it. He sees; He hears; He listens; He cares; He knows what is best. So let's simplify our prayers. Talk to God like He's in the room(He is!), and that He knows everything on our hearts (He does!) and that He is able to do what needs to be done (He will.) Pray like He is the star of the show, because, in reality, He is.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.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. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6)
You could not only see them coming - you could hear them coming: snobbish "spiritual" show-offs with their fancy clothes and displays of "charity. It has been around for ages - in the temple courts, in the palaces of the Middle Ages, and on the pages of the latest town news. There is no problem with the gift; it's the giver. The poor we will always have with us in this world, the Wise One once said; there will always be needs we as His people should respond to. The real issue is HOW we respond. Do we feel more spiritual because we have to give? Do we do so out of love and to glorify God? Do we want to see their response or His? Do we want Him to be impressed, or do we want to be awed by Him? Do we love to give - anonymously, freely, joyfully? Do we Give and Forget? Do we find ourselves asking: "Why is God being so good to me?" because we have only done what we ought to have done? Respond. Give. Forget. Give Thanks. Quietly
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5) In her dementia, my mother-in-law at times has called little red-headed boys or people who are nice to her "perfect". We don't let it go to our heads, because we realize that she is appreciating one of the few things she can still enjoy - people being nice to her without expecting anything in return. That is the kind of Perfect, complete, having the proper perspective that Christ is calling us to here. Those who really get what it means to be a child of God view and treat others as He has treated us in Christ: that all people deserve to be treated with respect, even when they do not do the same. God has done so toward us with a call to respond to His love, repent, trust and live for Him. He just might do the same for others if we live in the same way. So go ahead, be "perfect" today.