Where's Your Heart?
“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. “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. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “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. 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. “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. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. “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. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 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. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 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! “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. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:1–34, ESV)
Do Not Be Like The Hypocrites
It is a mistake to believe that religion can save. Formal external religious practices are not wrong, but they are not necessarily indicative of faith. Jesus continues his sermon, and he addresses the "heart" of the matter, which is the matter of the heart. Jesus calls those who give to the needy sound trumpets, call attention to their gifts, or receive the praise of others hypocrites. He is clear that the only reward for their efforts is received from those acknowledgments. Jesus is teaching that generosity reflects the king and that giving is part of kingdom life. The Father sees all things, and he is the one that will reward.
Jesus teaching on prayer is one of the best-known passages in the Bible because of the model prayer he gives his followers. He cautions his hearers concerning the danger of religious formalism. If prayer is only public performance, empty phrases, or asking for something that we are not willing to grant to others, it will not be effective. On the other hand, the prayer that is genuinely offered to God in the secret place of our lives and that becomes a discipline of grace will lead to the reward from our Father. The model prayer is to the Father in heaven. This prayer incorporates the language of children who have all the rights and privileges of belonging to the king and the kingdom. The address of God's fatherhood is not to be seized upon as a child with no manners. This entreaty is full of affection and laden with respect. These children of the king are to long for his rule and reign here on earth as it is experienced in heaven. Our father supplies our needs, and he calls us to forgive others when we are offended. We need his divine aid in resisting the evil one, and he is our deliverance from every snare. This model prayer is for things that will glorify God and produce obedience to him in our lives and the lives of others.
Jesus then addresses fasting, the practice of abstaining from food or something else for a particular period of time as a declaration that Jesus is enough and that he is the only thing we need. Fasting is not often discussed or practiced, but Jesus makes the assumption that his disciples will fast. Fasting must not be external religion or accompanied by the motive of being seen and praised. In the Old Testament, God required charity, prayer, and fasting, but he always insisted that these should be offerings of the heart. The Lord is bringing his disciples back to the real meaning of the Old Testament, as opposed to the empty external rituals imposed by the religious teachers and leaders of his day.
Jesus draws a contrast between earthly possessions and heavenly ones. These treasures will decay, and they may even be taken from us. But if our hearts and our treasures are in heaven, we will have something robust and eternal. Treasure demonstrates whether or not the disciple of Jesus understands Kingdom economy. What we cast our gaze upon, long for, and pursue most will show whether we are in the light or still in darkness. Materialism will lead to a divided heart. It is impossible for both God and money.
Jesus is a faithful king that will care for his own in such a way that they do not have to be anxious or worry. Life is more than the pursuit of necessities. Jesus points to examples from nature as he explains that birds and lilies are cared for by their creator. The child of the king may be assured that if the Father cares gives such attention to his creation, will he not look after us all the more? We must seek the kingdom and his righteousness, and God will add these things to you. There is enough trouble in this day, so one need not look to the next in fear. This good Father can be called on and trusted.