Friday, October 23, 2015

ALMSGIVING, FASTING, & PRAYER

Sermon on the Mount (pt 14)

When any of our religious activities are done with a view to being noticed, we have joined the ranks of the hypocrites.

I didn’t say that.
Jesus did. (Matt. 6:1-18)

According to Jesus, that building named in honor of Donor So-n-So, that pew labelled with the names of those who bought them (but no longer use them), are the only reward those folks will get for their giving.

Sure, they were probably roundly applauded when the donation was announced, and that surely added to their reward—then.

But, there is NO reward awaiting them in heaven for their generosity.

I do not pretend to understand the concept of rewards set aside in the afterlife, but I DO believe there are some for those who set their affections on things above and not on things of the earth. (Matt. 6:21; Col. 3:2; Rev. 22:12)

There is also the promise of Jesus that doing our religious acts secretly will result in open reward from the Father. (Matt. 6:4, 6, 18) That could very possibly be on this plane in this life; but I don’t know for certain.

I know for me, personally, the only time I’ve talked about any of my almsgiving is when I have passed up an opportunity to give by listening to the judgmental voice within me. Those times hurt, and become memorial stones of lessons to be shared with others.

These three things—almsgiving, fasting, and prayer—are to be a part of our spiritual practice; but they are to be done quietly, alone, and without recognition. (Each of these practices merit an article of their own, but I won’t go there.)

About the only practice engaged in by almost every believer is that of prayer.

Jesus said we are to pray privately.

That doesn’t negate the necessity of public prayer, but public prayer has taken a front seat in our Christian experience and is in danger of being little more than a religious exercise designed to keep us feeling secure in our religiousness.

Jesus said that we are not to use “vain repetitions” in our praying.

Many evangelicals—especially those who believe all Catholics go to hell—think “vain repetitions” refers to things like the practice of praying the rosary, because they say the “Hail, Mary” 10 times in a row.

Or, because of the many other “canned” prayers recited by Catholics and other high-church folks.

As a result, it is now possible to attend the same evangelical church for more then a year and never hear the model prayer that Jesus gave us (Matt. 6:9-13)

He told us what to say.
He told us where to say it.

However, in order to avoid being like those other folks (heathen), we won’t pray that way. Instead, we use our made-up, off-the-cuff, standard-format prayer.

Try it. Go to different churches for the next month with the only purpose being to study public prayer. Try to find the differences.

But, there is no way we are going to fall into the trap of making vain repetitions.

Yes, I know that is the way we have been taught by example. I understand that. I also understand that the ones who are called upon to carry our prayer requests to the Lord on our behalf are of a sincere and honest heart.

I just wonder if we have ever read Chapter 6 of Matthew with an eye toward trying to understand what The Master meant.

Then, as if He hadn’t already knocked all our props out from under us, He goes for the jugular beginning in verse 19.

Doing our righteous activities to be seen of men is, in reality, “laying up treasures upon earth” (Matt. 6:19).

In order to avoid any possibility of being misunderstood, or to allow an escape through meaningless words, He gets to the heart of the matter and speaks of and to the heart. (v. 21)

I have been fascinated for decades by the various dances done by teacher/preacher types concerning verse 24.
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Matt. 6:24)

Aside from the fact that the idea of “multi-tasking” is the deadliest thing to ever attach itself to our brain, Jesus said we can’t do it. We can’t serve God and pleasure; or God and things; or God and money.

I know that we get images almost everyday of those who have “proven” otherwise by showing us how to have our “Best Life Now,” but it only looks that way on the outside. (1 Tim. 6:3-10)

Notice the last sentence of verse 24—“You cannot serve God and mammon.”

The word ‘cannot’ is key gaining the understanding of what Jesus meant.

Someone may point to the street outside your window and say, “You can’t drive 100mph on that road.”

That’s just not true.

You CAN drive that speed on that road, but you may not necessarily enjoy the consequences.

We very often interpret the word “can’t” to mean “illegal.”
Such is not always the case.

“You can’t drive your car at 100mph from New York City to London, England” cannot be misinterpreted as being illegal.

It is impossible.

Such is the case with Jesus' statement about serving God and the world.

There are two different Greek words that speak to this kind of ability. One has the meaning of power and the other has the meaning of authority.

The idea of authority is at stake in “You can’t drive 100mph on your road.”
The idea of power is at stake in “You can’t drive across the ocean.”

That is the word that is used by Jesus.
He said, “It is impossible to serve two masters. It is impossible to serve God and money.”

You say, “But, Dale, I need money to live. How is this possible?!?”


We will talk about that the next time we get together as we continue our study from the Sermon on the Mount.
__________________________________
Your comments, criticisms, or questions are welcome here.
Please consider leaving your response below—either through words, or simply checking the appropriate box below that equals your reaction.
Thank you.

2 comments:

Your comments are welcome here.
Feel free to critique, criticize, question, or otherwise make your voice heard in relation to this post.
I only ask that you keep it civil and appropriate to the post.
Thanks.