Practicing Righteousness, Pursuing Eternal Rewards

“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

Practicing RighteousnessVerse 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.

The Space Between: A Good Friday Reflection

We call it Good Friday, yet it is marked by death… the death of Jesus. We may know that Sunday’s coming, with its promise of hope and resurrection. But the space between death and resurrection is a place of pain, heartache, loneliness and sorrow. The following is a poem I wrote as a reflection last year for Good Friday entitled, The Space Between. Special thanks to Steve Brown of Key Life who recorded the audio.

[audio http://www.covenantlifepca.com/clients/73/media/TheSpaceBetween.mp3]

The Space Between

The space between Sunday and Friday
Is more than I grasp, more than I can say
What started on a high note has turned into an awful week
Let me share the story of how it got this bleak

It all began on Sunday as Jesus came riding into town
For just the chance to see him, people gathered from all around
“Hosanna” they shouted, “Won’t you be our king?”
“We’ll put a crown upon your head and on your finger, a ring”

As Sunday turned to Friday, all joy began to disappear
The celebration ended, replaced by doubt and fear
Walking through that week and all that did unfold
The air, like my heart, grew heavy and cold

For 30 pieces of silver he was betrayed by a good friend
Then Peter said he didn’t know him, or so he did pretend
They hurled baseless accusations in that sham of a trial
Still he did not defend himself, not even a denial

Pilate was gonna set him free, but he gave into the crowd
He was gonna let him walk, but that’s when they got really loud
His enemies riled the crowd ‘til all you could hear was “Crucify!”
So he was beaten, bruised, spat upon and hung on a cross to die

As he breathed his final breath, he cried out “It is done”
That’s when darkness covered the land, swallowing the sun
The One who at creation declared “Let there be light”
Died a violent death and was buried on that scandalous night

For years I had followed him wherever he went
Never could I have foreseen this dramatic turn of events
My God, my King, my Jesus was laid in a grave
The hopes and fears of all the years… Buried with him in that cave

The space between Sunday and Friday
Is more than I grasp, more than I can say
Sunday’s triumphant parade of victory
Has given way to Friday’s agony

His friends all forsook him, they all began to flee
I ran too, so that list includes me
Our once-so-close knit group has been all strewn and scattered
After three years of following him, I wonder if any of it mattered

The space between Friday and Sunday is a terrible place
It’s an ugly, dark and unjust land of fear and disgrace
The brokenness and the dread, the heartache and the pain
Here I stand all alone, my faith has begun to wane

Someone once called this the dark night of the soul
If only someone could come and make my aching heart whole
Jesus is the only one who could do that, but alas, he is dead
Trapped in that gloomy moment, I hold on to something he once said

He made a curious comment: “Three days and I will rise”
If that is true, my friends, I must see it with my own eyes
I count the days till Sunday, I long for it to come
If Jesus does rise, a mighty victory’s been won

Caught between the grave and resurrection, between death and life
I want to believe, but in this place I’m torn between hope and strife
Right here, right now, that coming victory hardly can be seen
So until Sunday I’ll wait, in the space between

 

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

The whole Bible is about Jesus. The whole Bible was expecting Jesus’ arrival at that first Christmas. From the dawn of creation, God was telling a single story, building toward and expecting the glory of Christmas. Enjoy this spectacular video from The Skit Guys telling that story to the tune of Come Thou Long Expected Jesus!