Rewards on Earth
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We may give generously to the needy, but if we do that just to receive praise from others then we weren’t really acting to be generous, we were acting to be seen as a better person.
Reference: v.1 “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (NIV Bible)
Explore: At the beginning of chapter 6 Jesus talks about three things: kind acts, prayer and fasting. They are three very important elements of our faith today, as they were 2000 years ago for the Jews and early Christians. But as Jesus highlights these areas he goes deeper than just the basic action of fulfilling the set task – whether that be giving, praying or fasting. Jesus challenges the intention of the action. In each of these elements people were able to be obvious about them, and therefore receive recognition from the people around them, or they could be subtle and participate in these spiritual acts without seeking praise and approval by those around them.
Application: The actions for our world to see may be different from being in a Jewish community 2000 years ago. While it was favourable to be seen praying and fasting then, they are not attributes that are praised in today’s society in Australia. Quite the opposite. I worked in a State Primary School where there were very few Christian staff. One of them would often sit in the staff room with her eyes closed praying. I can assure you that this was not ‘honoured’ by the other staff like in that mentioned in verse 2 but she was labelled as ‘loopy’ and received no reward in the school!
There are, however, similar situations in our world today. We may give generously to the needy, but if we do that just to receive praise from others then we weren’t really acting to be generous, we were acting to be seen as a better person. Our intentions are still important. We constantly need to be checking ourselves to make sure that our intentions are pure and are not for earthly gain.
Prayer: Lord, so often my selfish ambition takes over and I do things for my self rather than to give praise to you. May I be less concerned about the thoughts of others and aim to live my life to constantly honour you. Amen.