Giving, Praying, and Fasting – Right Things, Wrong Reasons – Matthew 6:1-18

The word hypocrite comes from the Greek theatre where actors would wear different masks to play various roles.  Just a little trivia for you.  P.S. The Message translation of this chunk is Great.  I definitely think you should read it.

  • V1 – Compare this verse to Matthew 5:16 – He just said we should do our good works in public.  It all boils down to my motivation

◊ Do I do good works to be seen by others or to bring glory to my Father in heaven?  Am I trying to be right with God or look right with God?

  • V2 – If I’m trying to bring glory to God, I don’t need to bring attention to what I’m doing.  God always knows what I’m doing.  Others will start to notice as I consistently serve God and will give Him glory if I am constantly pointing them to Him.

◊ Am I being a glory hog or do I direct people’s glory back to God who is the One who deserves it.

*Interlude: This reminds me so much of a mistake I made a couple of months ago, I just have to share  it.  There were a couple of beggars sitting outside Trader Joe’s and God prompted me to get something for them while I was inside.  God had been extra generous to us that month, so I picked out bananas, chips, and salsa for them.  On the way out, I handed the girl the bag and she was Really grateful, saying thank you several times.  I said “You’re welcome.”  And that was it.  Gah!  Glory hog!  When I got back home, my husband pointed out that the gift ultimately came from God who provided for us and who prompted me to give it to her in the first place.  It would’ve been easy to say “God gave us extra and He wanted me to pass it on to you today because He loves you.”  Lesson learned.

  • V2 – “They have received their reward.”  Stop and think about the perceived value of praise from people versus the real value of receiving a reward from God in heaven.  The streets are made of gold there people!  I’m going to venture a guess that the better reward is going to come from God!
  • V3 – Giving shouldn’t even be a big deal in my own brain.  Don’t let your right hand give while your left hand pats you on the back.

◊ Gracious Father, teach me to control my own thoughts!

  • V4 – As the recipient of several “secret gifts” that seemed like they came from God Himself when I needed them most, I know this is one of the most uplifting, God-glorifying experiences a person in need can have.

◊ Is there anyone God is prompting me to gift in secret this week?

  • V5 – It sounds like the hypocrites are not really praying to God out of a relationship with Him, but to an audience of people out of a desire to be seen.  They’re unintentionally flaunting the fact that they don’t actually know God.  (If they did know Him, they’d know He doesn’t want a show.)
  • V6 – Don’t put on a show, but do go where there are no distractions – no one but you and God.
  • V5-6 – It sounds like the culture of the time was to make a big, showy deal of talking to God.  That’s not necessarily the case in Portland.  I think we probably need to consider Matthew 5:16 alongside this verse and not use these verses as an excuse to never pray in public.

◊ Do I pray or not pray out of pride and/or selfishness?

  • V7 – This reminds me of how I sometimes talk to my 4 year old…hoping to be heard for my many words.  I think He’s saying we shouldn’t mindlessly throw in extra “holy” words, but we should pray from our hearts without fancy language.
  • V8 – Father thank You for knowing what I need before I even ask!  What an intimate display of Your love for me.  Experience with my son prompts me to ask You to help me know and understand what I need and to receive those things from You even if they’re not necessarily what I want.
  • V9 – Before, Abraham was father of his descendants only, excluding many.  Now, God, Creator of everyone, is Father, excluding none.
  • V9 – We get to call Him Father just like Jesus calls Him Father.  Wow.  “Holy is your name.”  You deserve honor and respect from me as your child.

◊ Do I give God the honor and respect He deserves?  Does my image/idea of earthly fathers stain my conception of my heavenly Father?

  • V9 – “Pray like this.”  Thank You Jesus for giving us such a great example.  I can pray this prayer specifically into my current circumstances.

◊ Our Father in Heaven, You are perfect and holy.  My lips will praise You all day long.  Be king of my heart today and help us, as Your church, to reveal to our city a glimpse of what Your kingdom will be like when You come again.  Your will be done, not ours, as we consider where to send our son to school.  Let our decision bring You glory.  Give us patience today as we raise our two kids.  Help us to rely on You for the strength we need to make it through the day.  Forgive me for my selfishness when I took a shortcut in disciplining the kids today.  Instead of pointing them to You, I swept their sins under the rug.  Help me to be diligent in shepherding them towards You.  I can offer forgiveness to my kids for the many times they’ve sinned against me today only because of the forgiveness that You’ve so freely given me.  Keep this family safe Father, both physically and spiritually.  When we’re tempted to sin, help us to keep our eyes on You and draw our strength from You.  When we give in to temptation, help us to get reconciled with You and each other quickly.  Thank You for Your love.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.   [That was really helpful to me, you should try it using your own circumstances.]

  • V10 – God’s Kingdom – where God reigns in people’s hearts and actions.  I don’t pray for this enough!

◊ Father may Your kingdom come to Portland.  May this city of people do Your will instead of our own.  Start Your work in my own life and household and neighborhood.

  • V11 – Honor God first, then bring our needs before Him.  This whole prayer is plural (“us” instead of “me”).  Bread comes from God one day at a time.

◊ Do I ask God to provide for my needs or do I insist on taking care of everything on my own?

◊ Am I content to rely upon God for daily bread or do I insist He provide for weeks or months at a time?

◊ If we’re asking as a group and God has given me extra, is it my responsibility to share from my excess so that others will have their daily needs met?

  • V12 – Funny that this one doesn’t come before the bread we ask for in V11.  Makes me think of 5:45.
  • V12 – Forgiveness from God goes hand in hand with forgiving others.

◊Is there someone I’m withholding forgiveness from?

  • V13 – In the book Prayer I mentioned in the intro, Richard Foster phrased this “May there be nothing in my heart that causes You to put me to the test in order to reveal what is in my heart.”  Remember Jesus in Chapter 4?
  • V13 – “Deliver us from evil.”  Only God can do this since our very nature is sinful.
  • V14-15 – Forgiving others is so important He comes back to it!

◊ Why are these verses conditional when none of the others are?  Can I receive God’s forgiveness if I am withholding forgiveness from someone else?  (We teach our kids that we can’t receive good gifts from God if our fists are closed because we’re not sharing with others.)

  • V14-15 – My study Bible says “When we don’t forgive others we’re denying our common ground as sinners in need of God’s forgiveness.”
  • V16 – Fasting was an assumed activity.  Actually, in all 3 of these sections He says “when” not “if.”

◊ Do I fast and pray when I need guidance from God or when I need to reconnect with Him?

  • V18 – Almost matches verses 4 & 16 exactly.  Your Father is in that secret place where there’s no one else but you.

◊ Do I remember that my Father is in that “secret place” with me or do I act like it’s my own place to do as I please?  Could this “secret place” be a place of closest intimacy that I share with my Father where our relationship deepens every day?

Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:

  • Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
  • What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
  • Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
  • What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
  • What do these verses move me to pray for myself?
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About knockinguntilitopens

I am a Christ follower, a wife, a mom, and a creator. I like to share my stuff.
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2 Responses to Giving, Praying, and Fasting – Right Things, Wrong Reasons – Matthew 6:1-18

  1. Lots of good food for thought here! What struck me here was how many times this phrase is repeated: “Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full” – it’s almost like a poem with the repetition. Seems that since Jesus repeated it three times then it must be something to really think about.

    Loved what you said about the Lord’s Prayer being plural – our faith lives are meant to be shared communally!

    Very interesting question about forgiveness. Yes, I believe that reconciliation can only be complete when we are willing to fully forgive AND fully be forgiven. Wasn’t that in some other book we read? I forget.

    • The forgiveness thing may have even been in Foster’s Prayer book. I know he said a lot of other good things about forgiveness…
      Good thought about the poecy (is that the right word? My other choice was poeticalness, but that seems wrong) in that section. He repeats that phrase and the bit about doing it in secret where your Father, who is in secret, will see you. Hmmmm…perhaps a poem or a song should come from this?

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