Sermon on the Mount Pt.3 (Mathew 6:1-18)
This section of the Sermon on the Mount contains the Lord's prayer, and instructions on giving,prayer and fasting. This is also a very practical lesson for us all who do a lot of things except those commanded by Jesus himself.
Giving to others
Jesus says, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”(Mathew 6:1-4)
We are all at sometime in our lives guilty of showing off our righteousness and generosity in public. We give alms and help the poor to gain praise from others, for some material benefits to soothe our ego which by Jesus standards is definitely wrong. Jesus says “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing”. Jesus wants us to be humble and do good things in secret such that only God alone knows what we do.
This is indeed a difficult commandment to follow in a world where those who work in silence are suppressed and at times even punished whereas those who show off are praised and rewarded. It seems very unfair the way the good are denied their rights and the bad are rewarded but Jesus reassures us that what is done in secret may not be noticed by man but be rewarded by God who sees all things. What we have to do is to do the right thing at all times under the most difficult circumstances and God will be there for us without fail at the right time and at the right place when we need Him most.
Pray in secret
Jesus says “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”(Mathew 6:4-6)
Jesus says “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you”.(Mathew 6:16-18)
Again Jesus stresses that we must not be hypocrites whom he condemns. He wants us to pray and fast in private and not openly for others to see. Our praying and fasting if sincere is not for others to see but for only for God to know. Our prayer and fasting should be a means to give us the courage to do the right thing against all adversaries and not a means to seek favours from God who knows what to give us.
Today we seem to do the opposite of what Jesus commanded – we organise mammoth prayer sessions in the form of feasts, processions and pilgrimages for the world to see.We want to show how mighty we are by these mammoth gatherings to worship God.Many of these prayer sessions have in fact become highly commercialised to attract huge numbers of tourists from near and far. Is this what Jesus really wants of us? Let’s search our hearts for the answer.
Our Father who art 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.
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sinned against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Jesus even taught us how to pray in the Lord’s Prayer. This very simple but meaningful prayer is recited by us many times a day but very often we do not really mean what we say.
Very often we ask God to forgive our sins and grant us our needs but we ourselves are not willing to forgive others who have sinned against us or grant others what they need. Jesus has clearly stated that we must forgive others in order for Him to forgive our sins. God does not come directly to us to give us what we ask for but grants our needs through others and unless we are good to those we encounter there is no way God is going send people to deliver us.
In short we have to build God’s Kingdom here on earth, a Kingdom that must resemble His in Heaven where forgiveness reigns to deliver us from all evil.
Relevance of Lord's Prayer to us today
The following are some real life situations that we often encounter.
1. A leader in a community who takes all for himself and leaving little or none for those whom he is supposed to serve.At national level we see the leaders being corrupt to the core at the epense of the massess who are struggling to make ends meat.
2. Those who react with anger and seek vengence towards those who have hurt them in some way.They are unwilling to forgive others but epect others to forgive them for their sins.
3. Those in power with-holding their service to those under their care as a form of punishment for not following their directives or go against their will.
This is very common these days not only in the various institutions in the country but sadly even in our own church that diligently preaches the Gospel.We have governments which punish the people who vote against them by denying their legitimate rights.
In our church we have priests who punish their parishioners by refusuing the sacraments for not following their rules.They act as the the prosecutor,judge and eecutor to mete out punishment with no compassion or forgiveness,the fundamental principles in the teachings of Jesus.
We are all familiar that baptism,matrimony,last rights and funerals services are being denied to those whom the priests think are sinners as they lapse in their duties to the church as an institution.These priests forget the very words of Jesus that they preach “Let the one who has not sinned cast the first stone”
4. Those who hold God to ransom – offering to to do something in return for favours received.These are common among pilgrims who go in search of God from place to place.
5. Those who are hypocrites,pretending to do good in public but they do that with a motive to gain benefits for themselves and their families.We are all familiar with such practices being rampant among our politicians.Regretabbly knowing them we still continue to support them.
The above are just a few of the numerous eamples we have today in our midst.Are we also doing the same?It is time for us to stop and reflect on what we are doing.Are we really doing what Jesus commanded or only pretending to do what He wants? Have we forgiven those who have hurt us?Have we asked forgiveness from those whom we have hurt? If we haven’t it is never late to do so now.