Matthew 6

In Matthew 6, Jesus contrasts two kinds of people in the manner in which they relate with God. There are those who make a show of their religious lives attracting attention to themselves, treating God as though He were a machine who performs when all the right buttons are pressed. Then there are those, who serve God in truth behind closed doors where no one sees. They are the ones who’s “left hand is ignorant of what the right hand gives”. Jesus warns against being like the overtly religious type. “Do not pray as the heathens who use vain repetitions and think they will be heard for their much speaking”. “When you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do”. Be as those who “pray in secret” and “give alms in secret”.  Jesus is not here saying we are not to pray out in public, or we are to go to great lengths to hide from the sight of others our generous deeds. In fact in Matthew 5:16 Jesus exhorts us to “let our light shine before men, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven”. The point that is being made here is that there are those who serve God not for God’s sake but for their own personal sake. They treat God not as an end, but as a means to their own personal ends. They obey the Bible to the letter. They may even pray for extremely long hours. But in their service to God, they treat God as an employer — they fulfill their end of the bargain, and demand of God to grant their requests because they’ve been such “good” and “nice” people. They have no intimate relationship with God. Jesus wants us to be like those who see God as a “Father”, not as an “employer” to bargain with. Jesus wants us to see that the ultimate reward is in seeking God Himself, and not the things God can provide for us. Such people serve God for God’s sake and not for their own sake. Such people have a true intimate relationship with a Person. Their prayers are not “vain repetitions” but “delightful conversations”. Their ultimate end in praying, or in performing any generous deed, is not so that God can be put in their debt, but that they can further cultivate a more intimate relationship with God. They do not seek after their own ends first. They “seek first the kingdom of God”. C. S. Lewis once put it this way: “aim for heaven and you will have earth thrown in; aim for earth and you will have neither”. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you”. Whatever it is that we most want in this life, were God to open our eyes, we would see that in these things — whether it be the luxuries money can provide, or the warm company of a beloved — we actually wanted God. It is God that our hearts are most after. It is Him that we are seeking for in these “things”. In the “drink” or in the “sex” or in whatever we presume will finally fill us with joy, it is the infinite joy of God’s presence we truly desire. God offers Himself. He offers infinite joy. But we are “fooling about with drink and sex”. The problem is that we are “far too easily pleased”. We must not serve God for the “things” He can provide. We must serve God for God, for in the end what our hearts are really after but may find it difficult to express, is God!

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