“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.
This is the primary principle in making legitimate progress in growing in righteousness instead of a false progress which is really just self-righteousness.
(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.
Giving is to make a difference for those who receive. The motivation is not to be seen giving, rather, it is because we are hungering and thirsting for righteousness and want to make contribute toward what is right. The blessing promised is that our desire for righteousness, when we are motivated rightly, will be satisfied.
(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.
(9)Pray then like this: “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. (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.
Prayer is actively relying on God for what we need. What we pray in public is only as meaningful as what we pray in private. If we pray to be seen, then being seen is our reward. However, if we are meek enough to know that we really need God, then talking to God all alone will show that. There is no reward for talking to God alone except what God provides. That is as much the key to spiritual growth as anything. Once we actually trust in God enough to talk to him about what we need, everything becomes possible. That is the sign of a truly hopeful life. The people who are meek enough to talk to God because they actually believe God is their hope will inherit the earth God created people to rule under his leadership.
(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.
Fasting, suspending normal things like eating, is a way of grieving over something not being right. The abuse of this is to appear extraordinarily spiritual and dedicated. Jesus’ advice is that there is a place to mourn over our spiritual condition, but it is undermined when we do it to people (for show) instead of to God. If the real purpose is to cry out to God, then being discrete won’t throw him off. Rather, it makes it clear that your mourning is for Him to comfort, and he promises he will.
(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.
How we treasure sets the course for everything else. If what we treasure is worldly wealth, then we will employ whatever strategies and tactics are necessary to get us there. Inevitably we end up rationalizing our choices, so much so that we can’t see reality for what it is. Jesus says it all starts with who is our master. If God is our King, and we want to serve in his kingdom, then we will treasure what we know matters in the Kingdom.
Summary of the Sermon on the Mount so far (Mt 5:1-6:24):
Life can be blessed.
A blessed life is a righteous life.
A righteous life is one where a person becomes committed to seeking peace with others, integrity within themselves and unflinching mercy in a harsh world.
Righteousness comes from God and we should be careful not to replace God with trying to look religious.
By treasuring God and his kingdom, we grieve over our shortcomings (and are comforted). We meekly call out to God in prayer (and subsequently are promised success in life). We intentionally give because our appetite is for righteousness , not self-righteousness (and we will be satisfied).