Scripture: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Key verses: (4,18) “ . . . and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Reflection: I love the Sermon on the Mount – now. When I was a young Christian I wanted to use these chapters in the Gospel as a kind of guide to Christian living. I was challenged over and over again. There were times when I thought “I can’t do any of this!” So, I didn’t. I laid these teachings aside and told myself I would get back to them later. In those days, I wanted to read and study the more inspirational passages of scripture – the ones that made me feel good. Eventually, though, I couldn’t avoid these teachings so I made my way through them with the hope of discovering another way of living in the world.
Soon I discovered that the biggest temptation I faced was being too proud of being pious. I struggled with spiritual pride. I wanted people to know that I worshipped regularly, that I gave to the ministry of the church, and that I prayed and fasted as a spiritual discipline. I was very proud of myself and I desired to be commended by others. Soon I learned the folly of this endeavor and I was convicted by the scripture passages that I had avoided studying for so long.
Jesus warns us in today’s text to be careful about practicing our piety before others in order to get praise and admiration. If we brag about our giving or show off in our prayers or look dismal when we give up something for God, we will get a reward. But, it may be a different reward than we think! Jesus reminds us to keep our piety to ourselves and God will see our devotion. There is no need to show off for others. If we show off and get praise from others, we will receive an earthly reward, but we will have no reward from God. Our motives for cultivating piety are important.
The reward of spiritual practices is in the experience of the deep and abiding presence of God through friendship with Jesus Christ. Read these verses, draw near to God and see what God so generously wants to give you.
Prayer: Loving God, help us to let down our defenses and draw closer to you. Teach us how to give, to pray and to fast. Mold and shape us into the people we are meant to be. Keep us from bragging about our spiritual achievements and focus on drawing near to you. Thank you for the blessing of your presence and peace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Author: Deborah Conner
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].