Today we continue the Sermon on the Mount series, examining what it means to have humble faith, a faith that is centered on God and His glory, not our fame.
Moving forward in this series, posts will come out on Sunday, instead of Monday.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”
Why are you following Jesus? Keep that question in mind as we move forward in this post. Do we follow Him out of love for Him? Or do we perhaps follow Jesus because we want others to see what a great moral person we are, or how much more spiritual we are than “those people?”
Jesus has called those who know Him as Lord to have a humble, God-exalting, faith. He says those who practice their faith in order to be seen by others have no reward from God. He uses the example of giving to the poor: “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Jesus never says to not obey out of a desire to be rewarded. What the Lord condemns is desiring a reward from man that exalts us, and thus, gives no glory to God. Jesus closes this passage by exhorting us to obey trusting that God will give us a better reward, as only our perfect Father can. This reward will be much better than the praise of man, and will bring glory to God.
We give to the needy not because we want others to think of as generous, but because Jesus, by His grace, has made us generous. He has been generous in living perfectly for us, in dying for us, and bringing us to faith in Him as Lord and Savior, and we desire to glorify Him by walking as He walked. Serving others in a way that honors God means doing it because it’s who we are, not to gain some external reward.
Next, Jesus moves to a discussion on prayer:
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Once again, Jesus makes it clear that prayer is not about us being seen, but God being glorified. Our reward in prayer is not God answering our prayer. Our reward is knowing God, having a relationship with our Father in heaven. Our reward, which Jesus bought with His blood, is being able to talk to a holy God who not only doesn’t condemn us, but adopts us as His beloved children. This is infinitely better than someone looking at us and saying, “Wow…they’re really spiritual.”
Jesus gives an example of this prayer, commonly referred to as the Lord’s Prayer. While I could have an entire post dedicated to the Lord’s Prayer, I’ll discuss it briefly as it relates to having a humble faith.
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day 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 evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Nothing in this prayer calls attention to our ability, to our power, to our goodness and merit. Every syllable uttered in the Lord’s Prayer calls attention to God, to His holiness, to His glory, to His ability to meet our needs, to forgive our sins, and to lead us in His ways. Jesus continues to drive home the point that for followers of Christ, every area of life is about God. Every word of prayer, every thought, every action, is to glorify God, calling us to be humble and not consider ourselves more important than God or others.
We praise God and desire for His name to be known as holy. We ask Him to meet our needs, because we cannot even eat unless God wills it. We certainly cannot forgive ourselves, so we ask God, through Jesus, to forgive us as we forgive others. We know, moving forward with Christ, the only way we can overcome forgiven sin is with His help. The Lord’s Prayer is intended to humble us and cause us to rely on Christ and glorify God.
Lastly, Jesus talks about how His followers are to fast. Notice that Jesus says “when you fast,” not “if you fast.” It is expected that we fast as followers of Christ, because we desire God more than food.
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Our reward is God, not attention. There’s a temptation in fasting to say, “Look at me. Look how I’m not obsessed with food like the rest of you sinners. I love God so much more than you.” Those who have fasted know the temptation to “feel more spiritual” that comes along with it.
There’s nothing to boast about when it comes to obedience to God. If a child cleans his room after his mom’s asked him to do it, does he boast, “Look how great I am, Mom! I picked up every toy!” That certainly doesn’t make him look great…he’s simply doing what his parents told him to do. We don’t boast before God that we did what He commanded, we thank Him for the grace to obey.
Fasting is intended to humble us, to cause us to remember that we need God more than we need food. This is not self-exalting, this is God-exalting. Fasting should always end in worship, for we see that God is greater than food.
Our joy, because of Jesus, is to see God glorified. So what are we seeking? Why are we following Jesus? Having the right answers isn’t as important as having the right motivations.
The gospel gives us the right motivations. The gospel calls us to trust Christ for salvation, to know His righteousness and His forgiveness, and to follow Him as Lord. The gospel calls us to know God, not be known by man. When we know God and are known by God, we don’t have to be known by man (Jer. 9:23-24). When we know Christ and rest in Him, we can have humble faith.
Lord, may we be humble, as you are humble. May we serve you and others out of a desire to see you glorified, to be more like you, and to see others saved. May you kill our pride with reminders of your grace.