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f I am totally honest with myself, the truth is that I want you to think that I am a spiritual guy; that I am good at giving, praying and fasting. After all, I’m the pastor, right? Am I more concerned about the appearance of spirituality or the reality? Of course, we should all be giving and praying, but with what motive? Open your Bible to Matthew 6 where Jesus takes us beyond basic spiritual activities to our heart motives for doing them. At a core level, there is an audience question: am I doing spiritual activities so other people will think I am spiritual or am I doing them for my heavenly Father?

Our text today comes right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus shocked his audience with his kingdom vision in the Sermon on the Mount. His point is that we are to obey his authoritative teaching on the true meaning of the King’s commands so that we might stand out as bright lights in the world, stand strong when storms come and step up to receive God’s eternal reward. He calls us to be all-in, people who hold nothing back.

Many people misconstrue Christianity and what it means to follow Jesus because we humans are drawn to rules, to competition and fairness, meaning you get what you deserve. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ does not operate that way. God calls us out of rules into a personal relationship with him as our Father; out of fairness into grace, getting what we don’t deserve. Jesus’ kingdom vision for spiritual activities, such as giving and praying, sees them not as meritorious acts that gain points with God, nor even as intrinsically good in themselves, but rather as ways to connect with our heavenly Father and all that relationship can entail. What if, rather than trying to earn God’s favor or show other people how spiritual you are, you lived for God alone with ears listening for his “well-done”? Jesus’ big point is that his followers should aim to please God alone.

However, it’s important to note that Jesus assumes we will give our money, pray to the Father and fast. In each of three examples he does not say IF you do these activities, but WHEN you do them. Many of us need to get to first base. We need to give because we don’t. We need to pray more because we do too little of it. Then we need to search our hearts for why we give and pray.

In our text Jesus engrains a few central truths by following a pattern in what he says about giving, praying and fasting. Look at the chart on the back of your outline to see the fascinating pattern that conveys the truth he wants us to grasp by repeating it three times. It starts with “when you” give to the needy, pray or fast. Then “do not” announce your giving like the hypocrites, pray like hypocrites or look somber when you fast like hypocrites. In each case he addresses the intent that you will be seen by people. If you do, then you will get only the reward of people’s opinion of you and nothing from your heavenly Father. In contrast, you should do them to be unseen, give in secret, pray in a secret room and wash your face when you fast. Then in each case the Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. Our aim is to live for God alone, for his honor, not ours. Spiritual activities are not to be a display for others, but a devotion to our Father.

Jesus summarizes his overall point in verse one.

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. Matthew 6:1

In those days Jewish people would arrange to be in public places during the time for prayer so they could stop and pray where others would see them. What about us today? Today the public place is the Internet through social media. On Facebook and Instagram we can display our amazing vacations and incredible meals. We can also show our spirituality.

So quickly we substitute the great goal of pleasing God for the gross goal of pleasing people. Let’s look at each of Jesus’ three examples: giving, praying and fasting. Jesus starts with giving even before prayer.

GIVE

Money is a sensitive topic. Jesus hits it head on. Follow along starting in verse two:

2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:2–4

First, Jesus says what we are not to do. Once again he uses a humorous, exaggerated illustration.

Don’t blow a trumpet

We have a similar expression in English: Don’t toot your own horn. He mentions “synagogues” and “streets” as public places where a person could be seen. How does this happen today? People want their name on a plaque or a list of platinum sponsors. When you give so people will notice, Jesus says, truly you have received your reward in full. These are damning words using a commercial term meaning that you have been paid in full and so get nothing else. This implies that you will receive nothing from your heavenly Father; echoing back to verse 1, the Father will not reward you. In us there lurks a self-centered desire to be applauded for our spiritual deeds, but that desire blinds us to the real reward of a rich relationship with our Father. Instead of blowing a trumpet, Jesus uses another hyperbole to share how we should give.

Left hand does not know right hand

Our left hand should not know what the right hand is doing. Taken literally, this would be impossible. What is Jesus saying? We should not display our giving so others know what we have given in the hopes they will think well of us. The point is about our motives. So is it wrong to give by check or on-line rather than with cash because then someone will know what we gave? Should you report charitable contributions on your taxes because then the IRS knows your giving? Should we only give in untraceable cash? No. That is missing the point. The point is not external, but internal. It is not necessarily wrong to have your name on a list of sponsors who give to Run for Cover for the Samaritan Inn. It is not wrong for people to know how much you give. Jesus praised the widow who gave all she had and named the amount she gave. In the Book of Acts, clearly people knew that Barnabus had given a field at a certain price. Rather, the issue is your heart. The contrast is not public vs. secret, but for God vs. for show. However, most people find that keeping your giving private helps guard your heart from seeking people’s approval. When you give not for people’s praise, but to honor God, your Father rewards you.

Your Father will reward you

Rewards are a major theme in the Sermon on the Mount and in this section the word reward is used seven times. For me the concept of living to get rewards from God has felt awkward as if something is not quite right with it. Some have criticized Jesus, arguing that we should do good deeds altruistically with no thought of how we might benefit, even from God. It has also been a bit weird for me. So this week I have dug deeper into what the New Testament teaches about rewards. What I found has fascinated me and taken me to a deeper place with God.

You see, in Jesus’ kingdom vision, rewards are not a commercial transaction, but a family connection. We are the Father’s children. When your 4-year-old son builds a tower out of blocks, you do not pay him a dollar. You delight in the tower and share the moment together. Our reward is the joy of the Father. To dip into ethical theory for a moment, this is deeper than doing what’s in our best interest, deeper than doing what brings the most good, and even deeper than altruism, as if we do good because it is intrinsically good. Rather, the core reality is that God is God and the highest motive is to seek his good and share in it. He who comes to God must believe this and that he rewards those who seek him. God does not give us rewards as a just judge based on our merits, but as a generous Father who graciously gives us far more than we could ever deserve.

Jesus rejects the entire thought of a moral calculus earning divine rewards, as if the rewards were monetary or brownie points that we deserve. Rather, the Father’s reward is his gracious offer for us to share in his triune divine life, to be adopted into his family and to participate in his eternal reign of peace. Jesus transcends religious notions of rewards as something a human merits by their actions. For him, reward comes from God’s love and kindness in the Gospel that offers us what we do not deserve. We do not give and pray so that we will get a cookie from God, but rather because we know that God is God and want to please him. Consider the example of a violin player. If you are a novice violin player you can enjoy playing in a symphony, but not near the level of enjoyment that a master violinist experiences playing that same symphony. The master’s appreciation and enjoyment is so much richer. You appreciate it if a random person off the street claps for you. But if the composer of the symphony is there and when you play, he smiles, that means everything to you. At a very deep level then, Jesus opens our hearts to see if we are doing spiritual actions such as giving for ourselves or for God himself.

So, how is your giving? This is an awkward question for many of us. Why is it difficult to ask each other this question? Jesus spoke right to the issue. He did not dodge it. You can’t address motives for giving unless you are giving. In most churches many people who attend do not give anything to the church. That’s true at Christ Fellowship too, and it is wrong. Generally, as a church family, we are doing well in serving. 71% of the average adult attendance is serving in a role. About 90% of us pick up a study guide. We are doing great on being involved in a group. 112% of attendance is in a small group. But we are not doing as well in giving. Giving leads to a truly God blessed life.

I’m going to tell you the facts about giving here. We have about 1,687 households that are actively involved at Christ Fellowship. Some of you give faithfully, but many don’t. In looking at the last 6 months of 2014, July to December, only 17% gave at least $1,000/quarter which would mean about $4,000 a year, 10% of a $40,000 a year income, hardly a tithe. 43% % gave between $1-$999 per quarter. Sadly, 41% gave zero to the general fund of Christ Fellowship.

We have a spiritual problem. Our giving is to be proportionate to how God has blessed us financially. God wants us to joyfully give. Talk with God about your giving. If you are giving zero, I challenge you to do something. Take a baby step. Start with five dollars. If you are not proportionate in your giving, increase it. My prayer is that we will each grow and our church will grow in this area of our spiritual maturity. Then we all need to ask ourselves, what are my motives for giving? These same principles apply to Jesus’ second example: prayer.

PRAY

Jesus takes more time on prayer than on either giving or fasting. He addresses two bad motives in prayer. Listen to Jesus starting in verse five:

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Matthew 6:5–8

Can you remember the first time you were asked to pray out loud? Your hands start sweating, your mouth dries up. How do you start the prayer, “dear God, Father, Lord, Jesus…?” You wonder if you should change the tone of your voice into a proper prayer tone: an octave lower than your normal voice. Is there a right way to pray? A right tone? A right vocabulary? Why do those questions even occur to us? To whom are we praying anyway? We should be praying to our Father, not for people to evaluate the quality of our piety. We should not pray to impress people, but to connect with God.

Motives: Not so people can see you

We do not pray so people will see us. We do not pray so people will think we are spiritual. Sometimes with just a surface reading of the passage, people misunderstand Jesus. They think we should not pray in public, but only in secret. Jesus, however, is not talking about where we pray, but why we pray. Jesus prayed in public. The point is about what’s inside our hearts, not the external action.

For instance, it is not wrong to pray before a meal at Dos Charros. The issue is not praying out loud at a restaurant, but why are you praying out loud? Is it to thank God for providing your daily food or is it so the people around you will think you are spiritual? The goal of connecting with our Father can be traded for its cheap distortion, the goal of impressing people. The second motive that can pollute our prayer is trying to get God to hear you.

Not to get God to hear you

The Father is not a reluctant listener. And we do not need to inform him of our needs or convince him to meet our needs. He knows us and he loves us. The issue is deeper than the length of our prayers or the exact words that we say in our prayers. There is no Christian prayer formula. Prayer is talking with our Father. Jesus prayed all night and in the Garden of Gethsemane he repeated his prayer. God is neither ignorant so that we need to instruct him, nor hesitant so that we need to convince him. Prayer is not twisting God’s arm. We pray to connect with God and express our trust in him to meet our needs. Jesus says rather than praying in the street we should go into our secret room.

In your secret room

He says we should pray in secret with the door closed. The room would have been a small storage closet inside a single-room home. As with giving, we can guard our heart by praying privately. So how is your prayer life? It’s hard to talk about motives if you really don’t pray much. To start with, you should pray a lot. When you pray in public are you overly conscious of how others are hearing your prayer or are you simply talking with your Father? When you pray for your father, your Father will reward you.

Your Father will reward you

When prayer is simply talking to the Father without worrying about what others think of us, we experience reward from the Father. That reward is intimacy with the Father himself.

Model

Jesus breaks his pattern at this point by giving us a model for prayer, the famous Lord’s Prayer, more appropriately called the disciple’s prayer since it is for us. Starting in verse nine, Jesus says,

9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:9–15

When we say, “Our Father who is in heaven,” we are not uttering a formal address, but celebrating a relationship. We can only call God “Father” because of the high price he paid to adopt us as his children. When we are born, God is our Creator. We must be born again to make God our Father. That only happens through Jesus Christ. The Bible says,

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12

What an incredible privilege to be adopted into the family of God! If you are not sure you are in the family of God, you can be sure today. Receive God’s free offer of adoption by trusting in Jesus Christ alone to forgive you of your sins. Then you can rightly pray, “our Father in heaven.”

In this prayer, Jesus models six petitions in two groups of three. The first three focus on honoring God and the second three express our dependence on God.

Honor God

Generally, we start praying with our needs. What can God do for me? Instead, Jesus instructs us that God Almighty should be our first concern. Seeking his honor puts requests for ourselves in proper perspective.

Your Name. The Name of the Lord stands for God’s character, nature, power, and authority. To honor God’s Name means to declare who he is. Our temptation is to try to make a name for ourselves rather than promoting His Name.

Your kingdom. We anticipate the coming of our King in full power as we pray that Christ will exercise his revolutionary power today. “Your kingdom come” in my life, my family, my job, my city, my nation. We want His rule to be the rule of our lives.

Your will. Your will be done in me as it is in heaven. We are asking God to do what is necessary to make his will prevail in our lives and in our world, that God’s desires for righteousness will be as fully accomplished now on earth as they are now in heaven. Your will be done in my marriage, my relationships and my career. Having expressed our burning concern for his glory, we now express our humble dependence on his grace.

Depend on God. Jesus models praying for daily bread, debts and deliverance.

Our daily bread. We are told to pray daily for bread, basic needs, not for daily cake. By asking for our daily bread, we are acknowledging that our lives are in God’s hands. We recognize that all we have ultimately comes from the Lord.

Our debts. Forgiveness is as indispensable to the life and health of the soul as food is for the body. God’s gracious forgiveness is based on what Jesus did on the cross, not on anything we do or don’t do. Lack of forgiveness hurts our relationship with God. Thank God for his forgiveness.

Our deliverance How could God ever lead us into temptation? Why would He try to get us to sin? That makes no sense. The Bible tells us in James 1:13 that God never tempts anyone. So what is Jesus saying? The answer is that Jesus is using a figure of speech called litotes which expresses something by negating the contrary. For example, “not a few” means “many.” Lead us not into temptation” means keep us away from temptation. Lead us, not into temptation, but away from it, into righteousness. Use Jesus’ model as a pattern for your prayer.

FAST

In the last three verses Jesus moves to his third example, fasting. We will see the same pattern starting in verse sixteen:

16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:16–18

Fasting means to voluntarily abstain from food and, by extension, it has been used for voluntarily abstaining from activities such as television or social media. Fasting is never commanded in the Bible, but it is assumed by Jesus. So fasting is a voluntary spiritual practice. In the Bible godly people fasted for repentance from sin, to ask God for wisdom in a crisis or a difficult decision and to increase devotion in seeking God. When I fast, I tell myself that every time I feel a hunger pain, I will convert it to a spiritual hunger pain to know God more. As with giving and prayer Jesus tells us not to fast so people will see us. He says, don’t put on a sad face for show.

Don’t put on a sad face for show

In Jesus’ day people would deliberately arrange their appearance to show they were fasting so people could see how devout they were. There is a word play in Greek. They made themselves unrecognizable to be recognized. Instead, Jesus says wash your face.

Wash your face

Why would you tell other people you are fasting? There could be practical reasons: since I do not do much of the cooking, I want my wife Tamara to know not to cook dinner for me. But the real question is about my motive: am I sharing that I am fasting for people to see me? If you are medically able, I encourage you to try fasting for the right reasons. Then your Father will reward you.

Your Father will reward you

If you fast for the Father, your heavenly Father will reward you as he does with giving and praying. Our Father rewards us with the joy of nearness to him, with eternal blessings we cannot even imagine.

What is Jesus saying to us in this text? We should give, pray and fast, not for people but for God. We shouldn’t give in order to impress others, we shouldn’t pray to highlight our spirituality, and we shouldn’t fast so that others are aware of our supposed humility. Spirituality is not a performance for people; it is faithfulness to a Person. We should not give, pray and fast to impress others, but to connect with the Father. What is the Spirit of God saying to you? We want to be a church that is all-real, people of authenticity. Let’s do spiritual practices to connect with God and participate in what he is doing. Let’s live for God alone, knowing he is real and his reward is worth more than anything this world offers.

If I am totally honest with myself, the truth is that I want you to think that I am a spiritual guy; that I am good at giving, praying and fasting. After all, I’m the pastor, right? Am I more concerned about the appearance of spirituality or the reality? Of course, we should all be giving and praying, but with what motive? Open your Bible to Matthew chapter 6 where Jesus takes us beyond basic spiritual activities to our heart motives for doing them. At a core level there is an audience question: am I doing spiritual activities so other people will think I am spiritual or am I doing them for my heavenly Father?

Our text today comes right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus shocked his audience with his kingdom vision in the Sermon on the Mount. His point is that we are to obey his authoritative teaching on the true meaning of the King’s commands so that we might stand out as bright lights in the world, stand strong when storms come and step up to receive God’s eternal reward. He calls us to be all-in, people who hold nothing back.

Many people misconstrue Christianity and what it means to follow Jesus because we humans are drawn to rules, to competition and fairness, meaning you get what you deserve. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ does not operate that way. God calls us out of rules into a personal relationship with him as our Father; out of fairness into grace, getting what we don’t deserve. Jesus’ kingdom vision for spiritual activities, such as giving and praying, sees them not as meritorious acts that gain points with God, nor even as intrinsically good in themselves, but rather as ways to connect with our heavenly Father and all that relationship can entail. What if, rather than trying to earn God’s favor or show other people how spiritual you are, you lived for God alone with ears listening for his “well-done”? Jesus’ big point is that his followers should aim to please God alone.

However, it’s important to note that Jesus assumes we will give our money, pray to the Father and fast. In each of three examples he does not say IF you do these activities, but WHEN you do them. Many of us need to get to first base. We need to give because we don’t. We need to pray more because we do too little of it. Then we need to search our hearts for why we give and pray.

In our text Jesus engrains a few central truths by following a pattern in what he says about giving, praying and fasting. Look at the chart on the back of your outline to see the fascinating pattern that conveys the truth he wants us to grasp by repeating it three times. It starts with “when you” give to the needy, pray or fast. Then “do not” announce your giving like the hypocrites, pray like hypocrites or look somber when you fast like hypocrites. In each case he addresses the intent that you will be seen by people. If you do, then you will get only the reward of people’s opinion of you and nothing from your heavenly Father. In contrast, you should do them to be unseen, give in secret, pray in a secret room and wash your face when you fast. Then in each case the Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. Our aim is to live for God alone, for his honor, not ours. Spiritual activities are not to be a display for others, but a devotion to our Father.

Jesus summarizes his overall point in verse one.

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. Matthew 6:1

In those days Jewish people would arrange to be in public places during the time for prayer so they could stop and pray where others would see them. What about us today? Today the public place is the Internet through social media. On Facebook and Instagram we can display our amazing vacations and incredible meals. We can also show our spirituality.

So quickly we substitute the great goal of pleasing God for the gross goal of pleasing people. Let’s look at each of Jesus’ three examples: giving, praying and fasting. Jesus starts with giving even before prayer.

GIVE

Money is a sensitive topic. Jesus hits it head on. Follow along starting in verse two:

2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:2–4

First, Jesus says what we are not to do. Once again he uses a humorous, exaggerated illustration.

Don’t blow a trumpet

We have a similar expression in English: Don’t toot your own horn. He mentions “synagogues” and “streets” as public places where a person could be seen. How does this happen today? People want their name on a plaque or a list of platinum sponsors. When you give so people will notice, Jesus says, truly you have received your reward in full. These are damning words using a commercial term meaning that you have been paid in full and so get nothing else. This implies that you will receive nothing from your heavenly Father; echoing back to verse 1, the Father will not reward you. In us there lurks a self-centered desire to be applauded for our spiritual deeds, but that desire blinds us to the real reward of a rich relationship with our Father. Instead of blowing a trumpet, Jesus uses another hyperbole to share how we should give.

Left hand does not know right hand

Our left hand should not know what the right hand is doing. Taken literally, this would be impossible. What is Jesus saying? We should not display our giving so others know what we have given in the hopes they will think well of us. The point is about our motives. So is it wrong to give by check or on-line rather than with cash because then someone will know what we gave? Should you report charitable contributions on your taxes because then the IRS knows your giving? Should we only give in untraceable cash? No. That is missing the point. The point is not external, but internal. It is not necessarily wrong to have your name on a list of sponsors who give to Run for Cover for the Samaritan Inn. It is not wrong for people to know how much you give. Jesus praised the widow who gave all she had and named the amount she gave. In the Book of Acts, clearly people knew that Barnabus had given a field at a certain price. Rather, the issue is your heart. The contrast is not public vs. secret, but for God vs. for show. However, most people find that keeping your giving private helps guard your heart from seeking people’s approval. When you give not for people’s praise, but to honor God, your Father rewards you.

Your Father will reward you

Rewards are a major theme in the Sermon on the Mount and in this section the word reward is used seven times. For me the concept of living to get rewards from God has felt awkward as if something is not quite right with it. Some have criticized Jesus, arguing that we should do good deeds altruistically with no thought of how we might benefit, even from God. It has also been a bit weird for me. So this week I have dug deeper into what the New Testament teaches about rewards. What I found has fascinated me and taken me to a deeper place with God.

You see, in Jesus’ kingdom vision, rewards are not a commercial transaction, but a family connection. We are the Father’s children. When your 4-year-old son builds a tower out of blocks, you do not pay him a dollar. You delight in the tower and share the moment together. Our reward is the joy of the Father. To dip into ethical theory for a moment, this is deeper than doing what’s in our best interest, deeper than doing what brings the most good, and even deeper than altruism, as if we do good because it is intrinsically good. Rather, the core reality is that God is God and the highest motive is to seek his good and share in it. He who comes to God must believe this and that he rewards those who seek him. God does not give us rewards as a just judge based on our merits, but as a generous Father who graciously gives us far more than we could ever deserve.

Jesus rejects the entire thought of a moral calculus earning divine rewards, as if the rewards were monetary or brownie points that we deserve. Rather, the Father’s reward is his gracious offer for us to share in his triune divine life, to be adopted into his family and to participate in his eternal reign of peace. Jesus transcends religious notions of rewards as something a human merits by their actions. For him, reward comes from God’s love and kindness in the Gospel that offers us what we do not deserve. We do not give and pray so that we will get a cookie from God, but rather because we know that God is God and want to please him. Consider the example of a violin player. If you are a novice violin player you can enjoy playing in a symphony, but not near the level of enjoyment that a master violinist experiences playing that same symphony. The master’s appreciation and enjoyment is so much richer. You appreciate it if a random person off the street claps for you. But if the composer of the symphony is there and when you play, he smiles, that means everything to you. At a very deep level then, Jesus opens our hearts to see if we are doing spiritual actions such as giving for ourselves or for God himself.

So, how is your giving? This is an awkward question for many of us. Why is it difficult to ask each other this question? Jesus spoke right to the issue. He did not dodge it. You can’t address motives for giving unless you are giving. In most churches many people who attend do not give anything to the church. That’s true at Christ Fellowship too, and it is wrong. Generally, as a church family, we are doing well in serving. 71% of the average adult attendance is serving in a role. About 90% of us pick up a study guide. We are doing great on being involved in a group. 112% of attendance is in a small group. But we are not doing as well in giving. Giving leads to a truly God blessed life.

I’m going to tell you the facts about giving here. We have about 1,687 households that are actively involved at Christ Fellowship. Some of you give faithfully, but many don’t. In looking at the last 6 months of 2014, July to December, only 17% gave at least $1,000/quarter which would mean about $4,000 a year, 10% of a $40,000 a year income, hardly a tithe. 43% % gave between $1-$999 per quarter. Sadly, 41% gave zero to the general fund of Christ Fellowship.

We have a spiritual problem. Our giving is to be proportionate to how God has blessed us financially. God wants us to joyfully give. Talk with God about your giving. If you are giving zero, I challenge you to do something. Take a baby step. Start with five dollars. If you are not proportionate in your giving, increase it. My prayer is that we will each grow and our church will grow in this area of our spiritual maturity. Then we all need to ask ourselves, what are my motives for giving? These same principles apply to Jesus’ second example: prayer.

PRAY

Jesus takes more time on prayer than on either giving or fasting. He addresses two bad motives in prayer. Listen to Jesus starting in verse five:

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Matthew 6:5–8

Can you remember the first time you were asked to pray out loud? Your hands start sweating, your mouth dries up. How do you start the prayer, “dear God, Father, Lord, Jesus…?” You wonder if you should change the tone of your voice into a proper prayer tone: an octave lower than your normal voice. Is there a right way to pray? A right tone? A right vocabulary? Why do those questions even occur to us? To whom are we praying anyway? We should be praying to our Father, not for people to evaluate the quality of our piety. We should not pray to impress people, but to connect with God.

Motives: Not so people can see you

We do not pray so people will see us. We do not pray so people will think we are spiritual. Sometimes with just a surface reading of the passage, people misunderstand Jesus. They think we should not pray in public, but only in secret. Jesus, however, is not talking about where we pray, but why we pray. Jesus prayed in public. The point is about what’s inside our hearts, not the external action.

For instance, it is not wrong to pray before a meal at Dos Charros. The issue is not praying out loud at a restaurant, but why are you praying out loud? Is it to thank God for providing your daily food or is it so the people around you will think you are spiritual? The goal of connecting with our Father can be traded for its cheap distortion, the goal of impressing people. The second motive that can pollute our prayer is trying to get God to hear you.

Not to get God to hear you

The Father is not a reluctant listener. And we do not need to inform him of our needs or convince him to meet our needs. He knows us and he loves us. The issue is deeper than the length of our prayers or the exact words that we say in our prayers. There is no Christian prayer formula. Prayer is talking with our Father. Jesus prayed all night and in the Garden of Gethsemane he repeated his prayer. God is neither ignorant so that we need to instruct him, nor hesitant so that we need to convince him. Prayer is not twisting God’s arm. We pray to connect with God and express our trust in him to meet our needs. Jesus says rather than praying in the street we should go into our secret room.

In your secret room

He says we should pray in secret with the door closed. The room would have been a small storage closet inside a single-room home. As with giving, we can guard our heart by praying privately. So how is your prayer life? It’s hard to talk about motives if you really don’t pray much. To start with, you should pray a lot. When you pray in public are you overly conscious of how others are hearing your prayer or are you simply talking with your Father? When you pray for your father, your Father will reward you.

Your Father will reward you

When prayer is simply talking to the Father without worrying about what others think of us, we experience reward from the Father. That reward is intimacy with the Father himself.

Model

Jesus breaks his pattern at this point by giving us a model for prayer, the famous Lord’s Prayer, more appropriately called the disciple’s prayer since it is for us. Starting in verse nine, Jesus says,

9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:9–15

When we say, “Our Father who is in heaven,” we are not uttering a formal address, but celebrating a relationship. We can only call God “Father” because of the high price he paid to adopt us as his children. When we are born, God is our Creator. We must be born again to make God our Father. That only happens through Jesus Christ. The Bible says,

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12

What an incredible privilege to be adopted into the family of God! If you are not sure you are in the family of God, you can be sure today. Receive God’s free offer of adoption by trusting in Jesus Christ alone to forgive you of your sins. Then you can rightly pray, “our Father in heaven.”

In this prayer, Jesus models six petitions in two groups of three. The first three focus on honoring God and the second three express our dependence on God.

Honor God

Generally, we start praying with our needs. What can God do for me? Instead, Jesus instructs us that God Almighty should be our first concern. Seeking his honor puts requests for ourselves in proper perspective.

Your Name. The Name of the Lord stands for God’s character, nature, power, and authority. To honor God’s Name means to declare who he is. Our temptation is to try to make a name for ourselves rather than promoting His Name.

Your kingdom. We anticipate the coming of our King in full power as we pray that Christ will exercise his revolutionary power today. “Your kingdom come” in my life, my family, my job, my city, my nation. We want His rule to be the rule of our lives.

Your will. Your will be done in me as it is in heaven. We are asking God to do what is necessary to make his will prevail in our lives and in our world, that God’s desires for righteousness will be as fully accomplished now on earth as they are now in heaven. Your will be done in my marriage, my relationships and my career. Having expressed our burning concern for his glory, we now express our humble dependence on his grace.

Depend on God. Jesus models praying for daily bread, debts and deliverance.

Our daily bread. We are told to pray daily for bread, basic needs, not for daily cake. By asking for our daily bread, we are acknowledging that our lives are in God’s hands. We recognize that all we have ultimately comes from the Lord.

Our debts. Forgiveness is as indispensable to the life and health of the soul as food is for the body. God’s gracious forgiveness is based on what Jesus did on the cross, not on anything we do or don’t do. Lack of forgiveness hurts our relationship with God. Thank God for his forgiveness.

Our deliverance How could God ever lead us into temptation? Why would He try to get us to sin? That makes no sense. The Bible tells us in James 1:13 that God never tempts anyone. So what is Jesus saying? The answer is that Jesus is using a figure of speech called litotes which expresses something by negating the contrary. For example, “not a few” means “many.” Lead us not into temptation” means keep us away from temptation. Lead us, not into temptation, but away from it, into righteousness. Use Jesus’ model as a pattern for your prayer.

FAST

In the last three verses Jesus moves to his third example, fasting. We will see the same pattern starting in verse sixteen:

16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:16–18

Fasting means to voluntarily abstain from food and, by extension, it has been used for voluntarily abstaining from activities such as television or social media. Fasting is never commanded in the Bible, but it is assumed by Jesus. So fasting is a voluntary spiritual practice. In the Bible godly people fasted for repentance from sin, to ask God for wisdom in a crisis or a difficult decision and to increase devotion in seeking God. When I fast, I tell myself that every time I feel a hunger pain, I will convert it to a spiritual hunger pain to know God more. As with giving and prayer Jesus tells us not to fast so people will see us. He says, don’t put on a sad face for show.

Don’t put on a sad face for show

In Jesus’ day people would deliberately arrange their appearance to show they were fasting so people could see how devout they were. There is a word play in Greek. They made themselves unrecognizable to be recognized. Instead, Jesus says wash your face.

Wash your face

Why would you tell other people you are fasting? There could be practical reasons: since I do not do much of the cooking, I want my wife Tamara to know not to cook dinner for me. But the real question is about my motive: am I sharing that I am fasting for people to see me? If you are medically able, I encourage you to try fasting for the right reasons. Then your Father will reward you.

Your Father will reward you

If you fast for the Father, your heavenly Father will reward you as he does with giving and praying. Our Father rewards us with the joy of nearness to him, with eternal blessings we cannot even imagine.

What is Jesus saying to us in this text? We should give, pray and fast, not for people but for God. We shouldn’t give in order to impress others, we shouldn’t pray to highlight our spirituality, and we shouldn’t fast so that others are aware of our supposed humility. Spirituality is not a performance for people; it is faithfulness to a Person. We should not give, pray and fast to impress others, but to connect with the Father. What is the Spirit of God saying to you? We want to be a church that is all-real, people of authenticity. Let’s do spiritual practices to connect with God and participate in what he is doing. Let’s live for God alone, knowing he is real and his reward is worth more than anything this world offers.

If I am totally honest with myself, the truth is that I want you to think that I am a spiritual guy; that I am good at giving, praying and fasting. After all, I’m the pastor, right? Am I more concerned about the appearance of spirituality or the reality? Of course, we should all be giving and praying, but with what motive? Open your Bible to Matthew chapter 6 where Jesus takes us beyond basic spiritual activities to our heart motives for doing them. At a core level there is an audience question: am I doing spiritual activities so other people will think I am spiritual or am I doing them for my heavenly Father?

Our text today comes right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus shocked his audience with his kingdom vision in the Sermon on the Mount. His point is that we are to obey his authoritative teaching on the true meaning of the King’s commands so that we might stand out as bright lights in the world, stand strong when storms come and step up to receive God’s eternal reward. He calls us to be all-in, people who hold nothing back.

Many people misconstrue Christianity and what it means to follow Jesus because we humans are drawn to rules, to competition and fairness, meaning you get what you deserve. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ does not operate that way. God calls us out of rules into a personal relationship with him as our Father; out of fairness into grace, getting what we don’t deserve. Jesus’ kingdom vision for spiritual activities, such as giving and praying, sees them not as meritorious acts that gain points with God, nor even as intrinsically good in themselves, but rather as ways to connect with our heavenly Father and all that relationship can entail. What if, rather than trying to earn God’s favor or show other people how spiritual you are, you lived for God alone with ears listening for his “well-done”? Jesus’ big point is that his followers should aim to please God alone.

However, it’s important to note that Jesus assumes we will give our money, pray to the Father and fast. In each of three examples he does not say IF you do these activities, but WHEN you do them. Many of us need to get to first base. We need to give because we don’t. We need to pray more because we do too little of it. Then we need to search our hearts for why we give and pray.

In our text Jesus engrains a few central truths by following a pattern in what he says about giving, praying and fasting. Look at the chart on the back of your outline to see the fascinating pattern that conveys the truth he wants us to grasp by repeating it three times. It starts with “when you” give to the needy, pray or fast. Then “do not” announce your giving like the hypocrites, pray like hypocrites or look somber when you fast like hypocrites. In each case he addresses the intent that you will be seen by people. If you do, then you will get only the reward of people’s opinion of you and nothing from your heavenly Father. In contrast, you should do them to be unseen, give in secret, pray in a secret room and wash your face when you fast. Then in each case the Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. Our aim is to live for God alone, for his honor, not ours. Spiritual activities are not to be a display for others, but a devotion to our Father.

Jesus summarizes his overall point in verse one.

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. Matthew 6:1

In those days Jewish people would arrange to be in public places during the time for prayer so they could stop and pray where others would see them. What about us today? Today the public place is the Internet through social media. On Facebook and Instagram we can display our amazing vacations and incredible meals. We can also show our spirituality.

So quickly we substitute the great goal of pleasing God for the gross goal of pleasing people. Let’s look at each of Jesus’ three examples: giving, praying and fasting. Jesus starts with giving even before prayer.

GIVE

Money is a sensitive topic. Jesus hits it head on. Follow along starting in verse two:

2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:2–4

First, Jesus says what we are not to do. Once again he uses a humorous, exaggerated illustration.

Don’t blow a trumpet

We have a similar expression in English: Don’t toot your own horn. He mentions “synagogues” and “streets” as public places where a person could be seen. How does this happen today? People want their name on a plaque or a list of platinum sponsors. When you give so people will notice, Jesus says, truly you have received your reward in full. These are damning words using a commercial term meaning that you have been paid in full and so get nothing else. This implies that you will receive nothing from your heavenly Father; echoing back to verse 1, the Father will not reward you. In us there lurks a self-centered desire to be applauded for our spiritual deeds, but that desire blinds us to the real reward of a rich relationship with our Father. Instead of blowing a trumpet, Jesus uses another hyperbole to share how we should give.

Left hand does not know right hand

Our left hand should not know what the right hand is doing. Taken literally, this would be impossible. What is Jesus saying? We should not display our giving so others know what we have given in the hopes they will think well of us. The point is about our motives. So is it wrong to give by check or on-line rather than with cash because then someone will know what we gave? Should you report charitable contributions on your taxes because then the IRS knows your giving? Should we only give in untraceable cash? No. That is missing the point. The point is not external, but internal. It is not necessarily wrong to have your name on a list of sponsors who give to Run for Cover for the Samaritan Inn. It is not wrong for people to know how much you give. Jesus praised the widow who gave all she had and named the amount she gave. In the Book of Acts, clearly people knew that Barnabus had given a field at a certain price. Rather, the issue is your heart. The contrast is not public vs. secret, but for God vs. for show. However, most people find that keeping your giving private helps guard your heart from seeking people’s approval. When you give not for people’s praise, but to honor God, your Father rewards you.

Your Father will reward you

Rewards are a major theme in the Sermon on the Mount and in this section the word reward is used seven times. For me the concept of living to get rewards from God has felt awkward as if something is not quite right with it. Some have criticized Jesus, arguing that we should do good deeds altruistically with no thought of how we might benefit, even from God. It has also been a bit weird for me. So this week I have dug deeper into what the New Testament teaches about rewards. What I found has fascinated me and taken me to a deeper place with God.

You see, in Jesus’ kingdom vision, rewards are not a commercial transaction, but a family connection. We are the Father’s children. When your 4-year-old son builds a tower out of blocks, you do not pay him a dollar. You delight in the tower and share the moment together. Our reward is the joy of the Father. To dip into ethical theory for a moment, this is deeper than doing what’s in our best interest, deeper than doing what brings the most good, and even deeper than altruism, as if we do good because it is intrinsically good. Rather, the core reality is that God is God and the highest motive is to seek his good and share in it. He who comes to God must believe this and that he rewards those who seek him. God does not give us rewards as a just judge based on our merits, but as a generous Father who graciously gives us far more than we could ever deserve.

Jesus rejects the entire thought of a moral calculus earning divine rewards, as if the rewards were monetary or brownie points that we deserve. Rather, the Father’s reward is his gracious offer for us to share in his triune divine life, to be adopted into his family and to participate in his eternal reign of peace. Jesus transcends religious notions of rewards as something a human merits by their actions. For him, reward comes from God’s love and kindness in the Gospel that offers us what we do not deserve. We do not give and pray so that we will get a cookie from God, but rather because we know that God is God and want to please him. Consider the example of a violin player. If you are a novice violin player you can enjoy playing in a symphony, but not near the level of enjoyment that a master violinist experiences playing that same symphony. The master’s appreciation and enjoyment is so much richer. You appreciate it if a random person off the street claps for you. But if the composer of the symphony is there and when you play, he smiles, that means everything to you. At a very deep level then, Jesus opens our hearts to see if we are doing spiritual actions such as giving for ourselves or for God himself.

So, how is your giving? This is an awkward question for many of us. Why is it difficult to ask each other this question? Jesus spoke right to the issue. He did not dodge it. You can’t address motives for giving unless you are giving. In most churches many people who attend do not give anything to the church. That’s true at Christ Fellowship too, and it is wrong. Generally, as a church family, we are doing well in serving. 71% of the average adult attendance is serving in a role. About 90% of us pick up a study guide. We are doing great on being involved in a group. 112% of attendance is in a small group. But we are not doing as well in giving. Giving leads to a truly God blessed life.

I’m going to tell you the facts about giving here. We have about 1,687 households that are actively involved at Christ Fellowship. Some of you give faithfully, but many don’t. In looking at the last 6 months of 2014, July to December, only 17% gave at least $1,000/quarter which would mean about $4,000 a year, 10% of a $40,000 a year income, hardly a tithe. 43% % gave between $1-$999 per quarter. Sadly, 41% gave zero to the general fund of Christ Fellowship.

We have a spiritual problem. Our giving is to be proportionate to how God has blessed us financially. God wants us to joyfully give. Talk with God about your giving. If you are giving zero, I challenge you to do something. Take a baby step. Start with five dollars. If you are not proportionate in your giving, increase it. My prayer is that we will each grow and our church will grow in this area of our spiritual maturity. Then we all need to ask ourselves, what are my motives for giving? These same principles apply to Jesus’ second example: prayer.

PRAY

Jesus takes more time on prayer than on either giving or fasting. He addresses two bad motives in prayer. Listen to Jesus starting in verse five:

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Matthew 6:5–8

Can you remember the first time you were asked to pray out loud? Your hands start sweating, your mouth dries up. How do you start the prayer, “dear God, Father, Lord, Jesus…?” You wonder if you should change the tone of your voice into a proper prayer tone: an octave lower than your normal voice. Is there a right way to pray? A right tone? A right vocabulary? Why do those questions even occur to us? To whom are we praying anyway? We should be praying to our Father, not for people to evaluate the quality of our piety. We should not pray to impress people, but to connect with God.

Motives: Not so people can see you

We do not pray so people will see us. We do not pray so people will think we are spiritual. Sometimes with just a surface reading of the passage, people misunderstand Jesus. They think we should not pray in public, but only in secret. Jesus, however, is not talking about where we pray, but why we pray. Jesus prayed in public. The point is about what’s inside our hearts, not the external action.

For instance, it is not wrong to pray before a meal at Dos Charros. The issue is not praying out loud at a restaurant, but why are you praying out loud? Is it to thank God for providing your daily food or is it so the people around you will think you are spiritual? The goal of connecting with our Father can be traded for its cheap distortion, the goal of impressing people. The second motive that can pollute our prayer is trying to get God to hear you.

Not to get God to hear you

The Father is not a reluctant listener. And we do not need to inform him of our needs or convince him to meet our needs. He knows us and he loves us. The issue is deeper than the length of our prayers or the exact words that we say in our prayers. There is no Christian prayer formula. Prayer is talking with our Father. Jesus prayed all night and in the Garden of Gethsemane he repeated his prayer. God is neither ignorant so that we need to instruct him, nor hesitant so that we need to convince him. Prayer is not twisting God’s arm. We pray to connect with God and express our trust in him to meet our needs. Jesus says rather than praying in the street we should go into our secret room.

In your secret room

He says we should pray in secret with the door closed. The room would have been a small storage closet inside a single-room home. As with giving, we can guard our heart by praying privately. So how is your prayer life? It’s hard to talk about motives if you really don’t pray much. To start with, you should pray a lot. When you pray in public are you overly conscious of how others are hearing your prayer or are you simply talking with your Father? When you pray for your father, your Father will reward you.

Your Father will reward you

When prayer is simply talking to the Father without worrying about what others think of us, we experience reward from the Father. That reward is intimacy with the Father himself.

Model

Jesus breaks his pattern at this point by giving us a model for prayer, the famous Lord’s Prayer, more appropriately called the disciple’s prayer since it is for us. Starting in verse nine, Jesus says,

9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:9–15

When we say, “Our Father who is in heaven,” we are not uttering a formal address, but celebrating a relationship. We can only call God “Father” because of the high price he paid to adopt us as his children. When we are born, God is our Creator. We must be born again to make God our Father. That only happens through Jesus Christ. The Bible says,

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12

What an incredible privilege to be adopted into the family of God! If you are not sure you are in the family of God, you can be sure today. Receive God’s free offer of adoption by trusting in Jesus Christ alone to forgive you of your sins. Then you can rightly pray, “our Father in heaven.”

In this prayer, Jesus models six petitions in two groups of three. The first three focus on honoring God and the second three express our dependence on God.

Honor God

Generally, we start praying with our needs. What can God do for me? Instead, Jesus instructs us that God Almighty should be our first concern. Seeking his honor puts requests for ourselves in proper perspective.

Your Name. The Name of the Lord stands for God’s character, nature, power, and authority. To honor God’s Name means to declare who he is. Our temptation is to try to make a name for ourselves rather than promoting His Name.

Your kingdom. We anticipate the coming of our King in full power as we pray that Christ will exercise his revolutionary power today. “Your kingdom come” in my life, my family, my job, my city, my nation. We want His rule to be the rule of our lives.

Your will. Your will be done in me as it is in heaven. We are asking God to do what is necessary to make his will prevail in our lives and in our world, that God’s desires for righteousness will be as fully accomplished now on earth as they are now in heaven. Your will be done in my marriage, my relationships and my career. Having expressed our burning concern for his glory, we now express our humble dependence on his grace.

Depend on God. Jesus models praying for daily bread, debts and deliverance.

Our daily bread. We are told to pray daily for bread, basic needs, not for daily cake. By asking for our daily bread, we are acknowledging that our lives are in God’s hands. We recognize that all we have ultimately comes from the Lord.

Our debts. Forgiveness is as indispensable to the life and health of the soul as food is for the body. God’s gracious forgiveness is based on what Jesus did on the cross, not on anything we do or don’t do. Lack of forgiveness hurts our relationship with God. Thank God for his forgiveness.

Our deliverance How could God ever lead us into temptation? Why would He try to get us to sin? That makes no sense. The Bible tells us in James 1:13 that God never tempts anyone. So what is Jesus saying? The answer is that Jesus is using a figure of speech called litotes which expresses something by negating the contrary. For example, “not a few” means “many.” Lead us not into temptation” means keep us away from temptation. Lead us, not into temptation, but away from it, into righteousness. Use Jesus’ model as a pattern for your prayer.

FAST

In the last three verses Jesus moves to his third example, fasting. We will see the same pattern starting in verse sixteen:

16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:16–18

Fasting means to voluntarily abstain from food and, by extension, it has been used for voluntarily abstaining from activities such as television or social media. Fasting is never commanded in the Bible, but it is assumed by Jesus. So fasting is a voluntary spiritual practice. In the Bible godly people fasted for repentance from sin, to ask God for wisdom in a crisis or a difficult decision and to increase devotion in seeking God. When I fast, I tell myself that every time I feel a hunger pain, I will convert it to a spiritual hunger pain to know God more. As with giving and prayer Jesus tells us not to fast so people will see us. He says, don’t put on a sad face for show.

Don’t put on a sad face for show

In Jesus’ day people would deliberately arrange their appearance to show they were fasting so people could see how devout they were. There is a word play in Greek. They made themselves unrecognizable to be recognized. Instead, Jesus says wash your face.

Wash your face

Why would you tell other people you are fasting? There could be practical reasons: since I do not do much of the cooking, I want my wife Tamara to know not to cook dinner for me. But the real question is about my motive: am I sharing that I am fasting for people to see me? If you are medically able, I encourage you to try fasting for the right reasons. Then your Father will reward you.

Your Father will reward you

If you fast for the Father, your heavenly Father will reward you as he does with giving and praying. Our Father rewards us with the joy of nearness to him, with eternal blessings we cannot even imagine.

What is Jesus saying to us in this text? We should give, pray and fast, not for people but for God. We shouldn’t give in order to impress others, we shouldn’t pray to highlight our spirituality, and we shouldn’t fast so that others are aware of our supposed humility. Spirituality is not a performance for people; it is faithfulness to a Person. We should not give, pray and fast to impress others, but to connect with the Father. What is the Spirit of God saying to you? We want to be a church that is all-real, people of authenticity. Let’s do spiritual practices to connect with God and participate in what he is doing. Let’s live for God alone, knowing he is real and his reward is worth more than anything this world offers.