“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them.” Although the church is supposed to be a visible display of their invisible God, God’s children are not to do religious works with the goal of winning the approval of friends and neighbors. When worshipers give alms, pray, and fast, they should keep their eyes on the Lord only.
Jesus did not teach His disciples to strive for recognition on earth. Quite the opposite. “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.” In the same way, the best prayers to God were to be simple, following Christ’s example. Worshipers needed to speak for the ears of the Almighty with a generous forgiveness towards others who may have wronged them. Also, spiritual fasting was to be a humbling of oneself before God Most High and not a picture of “gloomy” spirituality calculated to show off a supposed holiness to all who might notice.
The best way to follow Christ is to value God and His heaven, investing in eternal realms with the expectation that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Worldliness will not lead to lasting fruit, but only poor spiritual vision and much stumbling in the dark for those who set their affections on money rather than God.
Jesus taught an entirely different life of religious devotion from those He rightly criticized as the “hypocrites” of His day. Seeking after the applause of human beings will never cause anyone to grow in the peace that passes understanding. Only resting in Jehovah can help His image-bearers to abandon their perpetual anxiety.
People may find themselves worrying continuously about food and clothing. For believers, the Man who died for our sins has taught us a better path for life: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Father God, bless us with a deep desire for secret opportunities to do what is good. Show us how to pray as those who love Your smile more than the praise of men. We look for the glory of Your Name, the progress of Your church, and the beauty of Your holy will. As we serve You day by day, we humbly ask that You would supply our needs, cancel the debt of our transgressions, and lead us away from every snare of evil. We willingly forgive everyone who has ever sinned against us. We mourn our own depravity and weakness, and ask for the power of Your presence among us. Will we be caught again in the clutches of money? We claim that we are free from such base impulses, yet we are easily anxious about food and clothing when there is even a slight danger of poverty among us. Teach us to seek first Your Kingdom and Your righteousness. We know that You will take care of us now and forever.