A holy man sat on a prominent street corner of his city. He covered himself with ashes as a sign of humility. When tourists asked permission to take his picture, the mystic would rearrange his ashes to give the best image of destitution and humility. Many times, our practice of Christianity amounts to nothing more than rearranging religious “ashes” to impress one another. The problem, of course, is that this humility is a sham, and this devotion is to self, not to God. In Matthew 6:1-6, Jesus warns us about rearranging our own religious ashes. Jesus gives two assumptions about his followers:
Jesus’ disciples give. Jesus’ disciples pray. Jesus’ disciples fast. (Matthew 6:2,5,16) The concern is not about when we give, pray, and fast, but why. What starts out as a desire to be all that God wants us to be can degenerate into a duty; and what degenerates into a duty can soon degenerate further into an empty display. Just as Jesus assumes that his disciples give, pray and fast. He presumes that we will struggle with our motives.
Jesus’ disciples can have improper motives. (Matthew 6:1, 2, 5) Two false motivations are given:
- so that you may be praised by others for giving. Jesus uses some picturesque language. The word hypocrite is that of the Greek actor on a stage. Change the mask and you change the character in the drama. These individuals were playing the part of religion, but their hearts were far from it.
- so that you may be seen by others for practicing righteousness. The human heart is hungry for human recognition. We crave the attention and praise of others. Jesus warns us that we do what we do because we want to be seen and praised by others. Jesus reminds us that if this is our motive then our reward will be the fact that others will see and recognize you.
Click below to listen to Pastor Joel’s message from Matthew 6.