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Giving and Praying

(Matthew 6:1-15)

Lesson 6 -- third quarter 2005
July 10, 2005

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2005, Christian Light Publications

Probing Your Own Heart

Does God fit into your giving and praying?

How important is it to you to be heard and seen of men?

Building on Some Foundational Concepts

The Christian must not seek self-glory.

Christian living is not to be done in secrecy and isolation. We are as cities on hills and candles on candlesticks so that people may "see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). However, in their open living, Christians must not seek the recognition and admiration of any human onlooker. Our primary motivation must be the pleasure and glory of the Father. Our secondary motivation may include blessing and benefit to the "recipients" of our godly living. Nowhere in our motivations should we allow self -- self-promotion, self-glory, self-admiration.

The Father knows and cares about our motives.

"Getting the job done" isn't God's main concern. Otherwise, He wouldn't care about our motives and purposes in giving and praying. However, this does not mean that I can skip praying or giving if my motives fail the Father's test. It does mean I must crucify self once again, asking God to "renew a right spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10).

All good receives its just reward.

No good done goes unrewarded -- because God is just. Those who do good to be seen of men, receive being seen of men as their reward, and that's all. Those who do good for the glory of God and the benefit of others, will likewise be rewarded. How just both rewards are!

Hypocrites do not give primary consideration to God.

Hypocrites perform for people and any temporal purposes they can accomplish. They are not God conscious. Or, being God conscious, care less about Him than they do about fooling people.

Questions and Responses

How do we give in secret in our modern age?

Checks and bank cards destroy anonymity. So does the need for a tax-deductible receipt. Even putting a folded dollar bill in a passed offering plate is difficult to conceal. How do we meet the alms-in-secret requirement?

The answer lies in the requirement's context. Notice that Matthew 6:1-4 warns against giving "to be been of" and to "have glory of men." The passage gives ample room for this inference: Holy humility is the goal, not necessarily absolute anonymity. God doesn't expect us to sit on our right hand while our left hand does the giving. Rather, He doesn't want us calling attention to our giving, even to the figurative extent of one hand announcing its generosity to the other.

Is Jesus forbidding public praying?

Yes, if it is about being "seen of men" and not about communicating to God.

Once again broadening our view to include the context, we can see that the Master's concern continues to be motive. He is no more forbidding all public prayer than He is requiring that all prayers be in some sort of private cubicle.

Jesus also wants us to understand and remember the nature of godly prayer -- conversing and communing with God. It isn't for calling man's attention to the one praying. Nor is it about preaching to any human listeners.

Couldn't saying The Lord's Prayer illustrate vain repetition?

Absolutely, especially if we merely say it rather than genuinely pray it. Merely saying something is repeating certain words (audibly or mentally) with little or no thought and heart involved. Genuinely praying is using words to communicate our thoughts and heart.

Take the following words as an example: "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." I repeat those words without giving conscious thought to them. I can even say them with conscious thought but without sincere meaning; in other words, not allowing the words to communicate the state and commitment of my heart. When we say those words we had better mean them and live them!

What is the cure for hypocrisy?

In addition to those highlighted in today's passage, hypocrisy has many other manifestations. Whatever its manifestation, the cure for the basic heart problem remains the same -- God-consciousness. Notice how many verses in today's reading bring God into the picture. Since the hypocrite performs solely for a human audience, he needs his heart turned and tuned toward God. When he learns to care about and be aware of God, he will find deliverance from his hypocrisy.

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