By Randy Dillon
1¶“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
2¶“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
3“But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
5¶“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
6“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 7¶“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words...
16¶“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do,for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
17“But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face
18so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
***** In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus provides three examples of how His followers should approach three important examples of worship that originate in the Old Testament. In each, Jesus explains how these worthy activities were so often misused by prominent Jews and then how they should be undertaken by His followers. Regarding charitable deeds, Jesus points out that such deeds are not to be done “before men to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Jesus also points out that such deeds were not to be performed by sounding a trumpet to call attention to the act of giving to a charitable cause. If such is done, they have received their reward on Earth but they have also forfeited their reward in heaven. In so doing such a deed in private a person will be rewarded by their heavenly Father. Regarding praying, Jesus likewise says that when praying in the synagogues and on the street corners hypocrites pray to “be seen by men” and they pray using “vain repetitions as the heathens do.” But His followers are called to pray in private and their reward will come from the Father. Regarding fasting, Jesus noted that hypocrites fast with a sad countenance and disfigured faces, again to call attention to themselves. But Christians are to fast with “anointed head” and a washed face. Thus, your appearance to men will not give evidence of your fasting. Jesus continued in a similar vein to discuss wealth and judging, describing how the world deals with these activities and how Christians should do so. However, in a larger sense these cautions apply not only to charity, praying and fasting, as well as wealth and judging, but to every aspect of our lives. Christ demands of us to refrain from calling attention to ourselves when doing good deeds in assisting others. Thus, if we assist someone in an emergency we should be cautious not to take public credit for doing good for someone in need. If we are given applause for exhibiting an exemplary performance in an activity we should be humble in accepting acclaim. If God provides us with substantial resources we should be careful not to take credit for that which we have not earned. Especially, we must be careful never to take credit ourselves for the goodness and grace of God. In doing so we are robbing God of His glory. We are not to do anything simply “to be seen of men.”