“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for them you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).
In prepping for an upcoming sermon on part of Matthew 6, I was struck by the two presuppositions of Matthew 6:1, along with the three specific areas that are then elaborated on. In short, verse 1 serves as the big idea of which the rest of the chapter serves as an explanation and application of verse 1.
Two Presuppositions in Matthew 6:1
Verse 1 presupposes two important things:
- We are supposed to practice righteousness.
- That is a funny statement, but we are to be living out the disciplines of the Christian faith. There are good and necessary out workings of our faith, and we are expected to be applying them to our lives.
- We are to long for rewards.
- Unfortunately, too many Christians think that rewards are bad. Never does the Bible condemn pursuing rewards, but instead presents a picture of actively pursuing rewards, crowns, and treasures.
The caution the Bible does provide with respect to pursuing rewards is to pursue eternal rewards, not temporal ones. Pursue treasures that will last forever, not ones that will be pass away. Pursue heavenly rewards, not immediate gratification rewards from those around us. And therein lies exactly the reason that Jesus then elaborates on three specific areas of application.
Three Specific Areas to which Jesus Applies Matthew 6:1
- Giving to the needy (vs 2-4).
- “Thus when you give to the needy…” (vs 2)
- “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you (vs 4).
- There is a temptation to approach giving to the needy as a means of paying it forward, thinking that it will come back to us in the future. Or we make a big deal about our giving, trumpeting how many kids we sponsor or how many wells we’ve helped dig. There is a reward to our giving to the needy. But for me, I want my reward to come from the Father who sees in secret…
- Prayer (vs 5-6)
- “And when you pray…” (vs 5)
- “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (vs 6).
- Daniel went into his closet and prayed. May that be a great example for us that our prayers not be marked by ten-cent words, but rather by humble spirits dependent upon God to move in our lives and on our behalf. But there is a temptation to show off our praying. here is a reward to our prayer. But for me, I want my reward to come from the Father who sees in secret…
- Fasting (vs 16-18)
- “And when you fast…” (vs 16)
- “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (vs 18).
- This is one many (most) of us rarely do. But if we do, we want to make sure everyone knows about it. “I’m fasting from Facebook for Lent.” Nevermind my thoughts on that even counting as a “fast,” but notice how self-congratulating it is. And likely, also its own full reward. here is a reward to our fasting. But for me, I want my reward to come from the Father who sees in secret…
Did you see the structure of those sections? Each started with “when you…” and ended with “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Those sections begin and end by addressing the two presuppositions of verse 1. May each of us ever grow in our practice of righteousness, and eagerly await the day we will be with the Father in glory and receive his eternal rewards.