WEDNESDAY 3.15.23 Matthew 6:1-18
1 “Be careful that you don’t practice your religion in front of people to draw their attention. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2 “Whenever you give to the poor, don’t blow your trumpet as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may get praise from people. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. 3 But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing 4 so that you may give to the poor in secret. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.
5 “When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners so that people will see them. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. 6 But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.
7 “When you pray, don’t pour out a flood of empty words, as the Gentiles do. They think that by saying many words they’ll be heard. 8 Don’t be like them, because your Father knows what you need before you ask. 9 Pray like this:
Our Father who is in heaven,
uphold the holiness of your name.
10 Bring in your kingdom
so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven.
11 Give us the bread we need for today.
12 Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you,
just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.
13 And don’t lead us into temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.
14 “If you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you don’t forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your sins.
16 “And when you fast, don’t put on a sad face like the hypocrites. They distort their faces so people will know they are fasting. I assure you that they have their reward. 17 When you fast, brush your hair and wash your face. 18 Then you won’t look like you are fasting to people, but only to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Did You Know?
The most familiar Lord's Prayer says, at the end of verse 13 "for yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, Amen." Few recent English versions include that, because the phrase is not in any of the oldest existing manuscripts of Matthew. The 1611 King James Version couldn’t consider those older manuscripts--they hadn’t been found yet. The reverent benediction doesn’t seem to have been part of the original gospel text. "These words were probably added to Matthew's text when Jesus' prayer became more and more a part of the church's worship." *
Imagine hiring a bugler to sound a pompous fanfare just before you put your big gift (“for the poor”) into a Temple offering box. Jesus' clear warning: you can do a good thing for wrong reasons. God can tell the difference, whether people can or not. Matthew set Jesus’ model prayer in the Sermon on the Mount; Luke wrote about the prayer in a different setting (cf. Luke 11:1-4). Jesus must have often taught this prayer. He taught his disciples (all of us) how to speak with God simply yet profoundly.
- As Jesus taught about various spiritual practices, he never used the word “if.” In today’s passage, he said “whenever you give to the poor,” “when you pray,” even “when you fast.” As scholar N. T. Wright put it, Jesus “assumes that people will continue to do all of these. What matters is learning to do them simply to and for God himself.” ** What are the regular practices (“holy habits”) that most open your heart and draw you closer to God?
- “Fasting” most often means giving up food for 12 or 24 hours, using mealtimes for prayer and Scripture study. (Note: for medical reasons, some people—notably pregnant women—should not fast from food without a doctor’s guidance. Christians may also “fast” from their smart phone or other cherished activities rather than food.) How can this, like giving money or devoting time to worship, reinforce your commitment to make God your highest priority?
Lord Jesus, it can sound so obvious: “Prayer is talking to God.” Keep me growing so that I value my connection with you more highly than any other aspect of my life. Amen.
In case you missed it...
During Lent, we have a weekly video that will help you reflect on the key themes from Words that Changed the World: The Message of Jesus. Pastor Cheryl Bell leads us through this week's video. Click here to watch it on YouTube (or click on the image below).
* Eugene Eung-Chun Park and Joel B. Green, study note on Matthew 5:13 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 16 NT. For a fuller study, see Hamilton, Adam, The Lord's Prayer (chapter 6). Abingdon Press.
** Wright, N.T., Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-15 (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 55). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
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Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality, teaching at several seminaries. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. Her latest book (Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness, Abingdon Press, 2017) traces ancient mindfulness practice for Christians today.