READ: Matthew 6:1-18
- Right after Jesus finishes His, “You have heard it said…but I say to you,” comments, He turns His attention to the spirit of our actions. But, it’s not really a turn; it’s more a continuation of that spirit which cares more for the inner motive than the outward action. Three key actions are identified and placed in a context of addressing inner contentment instead of outward gratification. For Jesus, the heart matters far more than the activity in which we participate.
- Jesus addresses the issues of giving to the needy (almsgiving) (v2-4), prayer (v5-15), and fasting (v16-18). Each of those three practices could produce a great deal of pride if not monitored. Verse 1 actually addresses the concern before any of the practices are identified. Jesus says that if you do these things “to be seen,” then you are doing them from improper motivation, and they lose their efficacy before God. In other words, the attention you get from others is all the “reward” you get.
- Thus, the key is to call no attention to yourself. Don’t give so that others are impressed; don’t pray in order to be heard, and don’t call attention to your fasting in order to be applauded. Do those acts before God and not before men. God will honor your actions with His approval and you can be content with that. In fact, just knowing that God knows should be all the reward we ever need.
- Describe a time when you were tempted to act in order to be seen by others instead of God.
- Besides giving, praying and fasting, what other actions can be done for attention?
- Why does the heart matter so much in these instances?
PRAY: Ask God to help you function from the heart instead of seeking the approval of others. Pray that God’s honor can be your primary motivation. Thank God that He pays attention to our actions.