Yesterday we talked about verse one of this chapter, but the entire chapter is filled with guidance on how to live, think, and deal with our public and private lives. It is quite an involved and powerful passage filled with incredible benefits if we incorporate the instructions into our lives.
He said in verse one that we are to guard against practicing our righteousness publicly for recognition and to elicit personal praise and human flattery. According to our Lord, God finds this offensive and turns His back on it. You will fail to heed the warning or instruction if you value men’s opinion more than God’s. However, if you value God’s opinion more than anything else, you will heed the warning and follow the instructions. It will not be easy, and you will find times you must resist the temptation to ‘toot your own horn’ or get someone to ‘toot it for you’ to bring you recognition.
Next, he addresses benevolence. This is particularly personal for me both in my own life and the experiences I have had in leading congregations through the years. I have had, more than once, someone come to me and say, “I’m going to buy this or that for the church or give this or that, but I do not want any personal recognition.”
That sounded wonderful, but when I allowed the gift to remain anonymous, I soon became aware that what they said and what they wanted were not the same. They wanted recognition but made the apparent ‘self-effacing’ statement, hoping I would violate their confidence and publicly praise them. I considered doing so an ethical violation that I could not participate in.
It has always been my desire to do acts of benevolence anonymously. What I do in secret, God will reward openly, but even if He did not, my gift or act was not for personal recognition. My gift is because I Love God and want to help those; He directs me to help. Whenever I have decided to give a gift or engage in an act of benevolence, I ask myself, “Why are you doing this? Is it because God has directed you, and are you doing it out of a pure motive to bring honor and glory to Him?”
I fully understand that the benefit to the person to whom we act in benevolence will be positive, even if we are doing it for the wrong motive. Still, the greater blessing and benefit will be if we do it according to God’s prescribed method. Is your life about you or Him?
Then, Jesus addressed praying. This is troubling in some ways because I have found that in order to inspire others to pray, I have felt the need to be visible in prayer and thereby call attention to my praying. That can be done discreetly without making a fanfare in the public arena and do as the Pharisees say, “Look at me and see how pious I am and how much I pray.” Jesus said, “When you pray….” Do not do so to be seen and do not use vain repetitions, but find a place to be alone with God and follow the guidelines of what we call the Lord’s Prayer:
“Our Father who is 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 do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and power and glory forever. Amen.”
If this is our prayer, in our closet, and we recognize God and His Majesty, then when we are in public, we can offer that recognition and praise with a pure heart. We are to pray for God’s kingdom, purpose, will, and harvest and seek to fully align with His purposes, plan, and will.
We follow the directive to Forgive in recognition that our forgiveness is much greater than any offense we may have endured. We know that God does not tempt, and the prayer to not be led into temptation can be linked to the revelation that if we face something beyond our ability to endure, God provides a door of escape.
We pray that God will build a hedge of protection around us, and when the enemy comes in like a flood, He will raise up a standard against the enemy. We are to learn to take on the Whole Armor of God so that we can withstand. We praise God, and we offer thanksgiving to Him. If we begin our day in that mindset and practice, I am fully confident that He will guide our lives, and what we do will not flow from a wrong motive but for the righteous purpose of LIFTING HIM UP!
God, bless you greatly is my prayer as you fulfill your assignment for this day!