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But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  Matthew 6:3

Nestled within the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, we encounter three spiritual practices we often observe during Lent: giving (v. 2-4), prayer (v. 5-14), and fasting (v. 16-18). 

Jesus begins by stating our mindset when we do these things: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (v. 1). When we give, pray, and fast, we aren’t doing it to gain notoriety for ourselves but to grow closer to God.

Let’s look more closely at what Jesus says about those “When” times:

When we give to those in need, Jesus warns against practicing righteousness merely for public recognition. When we give to the needy, we shouldn’t announce it with trumpets or seek honor from others. Instead, we should provide secretly, and our heavenly Father will reward us.

When we pray, avoid praying ostentatiously in public places to gain admiration. Jesus isn’t talking about those churches whose practice is to pray aloud communally in service. No, he’s saying we should have the right attitudes in our hearts. We aren’t doing it for entertainment value–that of others or ourselves. It’s not a show. Instead, we are to pray intimately, connecting with our unseen, ever-present Father. He knows our every need, even before we ask.

When we fast, we shouldn’t appear sad and put on a show, sucking in our cheeks and appearing mournful. No, we should wash our faces and maintain a normal appearance. Though Jesus here is talking about abstaining from food, there are other types of abstinence. Whatever it is we are sacrificing, whenever we do it, do it out with joy in the secret pleasure of the gift. 

God desires genuine righteousness that transcends outward displays and focuses on our hearts and our relationship with Him. 

Earlier, I mentioned these things being associated with Lent only because we are at that particular point of the church calendar, and they are common observances. However, these should be regular parts of our spiritual journey as Christians. As emulators of Jesus, we should follow his example in all things.

Let us pray together as Jesus taught us (v. 9-13).

Our Father in heaven, 

hallowed be your name, 

your kingdom come, 

your will be done, 

on earth as it is in heaven. 

Give us today our daily bread. 

And forgive us our debts, 

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, 

but deliver us from the evil one. Amen.


Pastor Tim

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