RIGHTEOUSNESS NOT RELIGION
Sound No Trumpet
Jesus did not come to eliminate the law; he came to fulfill it. The problem is many see the law only in external behavior when public religion may be practiced for the praise of man rather than honoring God. Jesus teaches that the kingdom of God is not about external religious formalities. It is possible to do the right things with wrong motives and displease God. 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 sound trumpets when they give to the needy just to call attention to their gifts and receive the praise of others hypocrites. He is clear that the only reward for those kinds of efforts will be received from the people who praise them when they see it. Jesus is teaching that generosity is a part of kingdom life, but it is to be done out of love for the Father who sees all things, and he is the one that will reward the giver.
Do Not Heap Up Empty Phrases
Jesus teaching on prayer is one of the best-known passages in the Bible because of the template for prayer he gives his followers. He cautions his hearers concerning the danger of impure motives, for if prayer is only a public performance, filled with empty phrases, or asking for something that one is not willing to grant to others, it will not be pleasing to the Father. On the other hand, the prayer that is genuinely offered to God in the secret place where it becomes a discipline of grace will lead to the Father who sees rewarding the one in prayer. Jesus teaches that prayer should be directed to the Father in heaven, incorporating the language of children who have access, rights, and privileges because they belong to the king and the kingdom. The address of God's fatherhood is not to be seized upon as a child with no manners and should be offered with affection and filled with respect. These children of the king long for his rule and reign here on earth as it is experienced in heaven. The Father supplies needs and calls his children to forgive others when they are offended. God's children need his help to resist the evil one, and he is deliverance from every snare. Jesus' model prayer provides a template for things that glorify God, produce obedience, and depend on him for life itself.
When You Fast
Jesus addresses fasting, the practice of abstaining from food or something else for a particular period as a declaration that Jesus is enough and that he is the only thing we need. Fasting may not often be discussed or practiced, but Jesus assumes that his disciples will fast because he says, "When you fast." Jesus speaks of those who disfigure their faces or do things to themselves to make their fasting conspicuous so that others will see the evidence of their fasting written all over their faces. The one who fasts should seek to attract attention by altering their general appearance. In the Old Testament, God required charity, prayer, and fasting, but he always insisted that these should be offerings of the heart. Jesus is teaching his disciples about the real meaning of the law and religious practices, as opposed to the empty external rituals practiced and imposed by the religious teachers and leaders of his day.
You Cannot Serve God And Money
Jesus commands his followers not to order their lives around earthly treasures, and he draws a contrast between earthly possessions and heavenly ones. Earthly treasures will decay, and they may be taken from us. Jesus is teaching about kingdom values which are more focused on life eternal than immediate gratification. One's treasure indicates whether or not the disciple of Jesus understands the Kingdom economy. The heart follows the treasure and what one looks to, longs for, and pursues will show whether they are in the light or still in darkness. Materialism will lead to a divided heart. It is impossible to serve God and money. It is not a sin to have money, but it is a sin to be a slave to 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. There is more to life than the pursuit of necessities. Jesus points to examples from nature as he explains that birds and lilies are cared for by their creator. Jesus is teaching people who understand food shortages and hunger. The child of the king may be assured that if the Father cares gives so much attention to his creation, will he not look after us all the more? God is transcendent, but he is also imminent. Jesus calls his followers to seek the kingdom and righteousness first; then God will add these things either in this life or the life to come. There is enough trouble in this day, so one need not look to the next in fear because this good Father can be called on and trusted.
Things To Consider:
- What are some ways that you practice righteousness so that others will see you?
- Do you pray regularly? Why or why not?
- Do you pray out loud when you are alone? Why or why not?
- Why do you think God is concerned with your prayers that are offered in secret?
- Do you fast? Why or why not?
- Do you tell others when you fast? Why?
- What are your heart motivations for practicing the disciplines of grace and for service?
- What are your heart motivations for service?
- Does knowing that God is a Father make it difficult or easy for you to approach him?
- Where is your struggle with money?
- Do you struggle with being content? Why?
- What things do you worry about? Why?
- How should we face today's trouble in light of Jesus' teaching?