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Sincere worship, discreet service

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. 2 When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity!... “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-2, 5-6

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has not finished developing His theme of a righteousness that surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees (see Matthew 5:20). The Pharisees hated Jesus for He will not allow them to get away with their phony attitude in worship. They were into showing off and God can see their heart. Jesus knows that His disciples will be generous in giving to the needy. He just wants us to be quiet about it. The Bible does not separate righteousness from generosity. We help those who cannot help themselves. But we must not call attention to ourselves. Our goal is not to have our names engraved in some monument, or to be honored at an appreciation banquet. We give just as much, but we give to help. The Lord Jesus Christ does not oppose public worship. In fact, He regularly attends the synagogue on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16) and faithfully goes to the Temple when in Jerusalem. He does nothing to discourage, either by example or teaching, assembling to worship God. What He addressed here is staging a performance of religious devotion that does not come from a worshiping heart. What we call worship of God may be more accurately termed worship of men. “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). In other words, Jesus’ warning says; “Do not practice your religion ‘theatrically,’ for the applause of an audience.” To do so is hypocrisy, merely showing off. Whether giving to charity or praying or fasting, worship God and not the approval of men. They wanted applause and attention and they got both. Three times Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get” (verses 2, 5, 16). Nothing else is coming to them. There are those that follow this guideline; “What will others say and think?” So what other people think dictates their actions and choices. They would deny this charge, of course, but such attitude denies worship of God. If we are serious about wanting to please God, then we will serve Him with quiet giving, with honest prayer, and with secret self-denial.


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