Text: Matthew 6:1-24
Author: Rev. Matthew S. Mayes
It’s remarkable how as God’s greatest achievement we are so susceptible to being influenced by the environment we live in. As humans we are affected by the physical, what we think, and how we feel . We are also affected by two other very powerful influences that we give little thought to. They are culture (the social environment we grow up and live in) and the spiritual (which gives us meaning and purpose). Our faith in Jesus Christ connects our spirituality to our belief. However, if we are not intentional, our faith can easily be subverted by our culture.
In Matthew 6 Jesus is probably in the latter half of his sermon. At this point in the sermon Jesus is addressing a particular concern and if we are not careful it can be easily missed. It has been my experience that too often we focus on the idea secrecy. If Jesus’ point is secrecy how does Jesus’ words work during Sunday worship? Should our building contain many closets so no one sees us put a check in the plate? Is praying together in unity and agreement wrong? Hardly!
Look again at the passage. Jesus speaks about giving, prayer, and fasting. At the end of the series Jesus finishes with an admonition to store up our treasures in heaven. See anything about secrecy in the his admonition? It really is about our hearts and what we value. Faith values God, but it is all too easy to be influenced by the world and seek out accolades from others, so Jesus says it would be better to worship in secret than to be guilty of idolatry. Seeking the accolades of others in our worship means placing another master in God’s place.
Now this is easier to fall prey to than you might expect. Let me give you a personal example. The Anglican Mission, PEAR, and the ACNA all have a big focus on church planting and growth. That comes with a huge amount of pressure. Problem is, for me (and others) this means focusing on finances, attendance, and growth. In turn that can easily become a means of seeking acknowledgement from my superiors and peers, just like the Pharisees sought acknowledgement for giving, praying, and fasting. We all have a natural desire to be acknowledged (accepted). The sad thing is, when my focus was on receiving acknowledgment from others, when I got it, I RECEIVED MY REWARD! Get it? This was hard for me to recognize and as you might imagine even admit, but by God’s grace he pricked my sensibilities and opened my mind to my failure. Jesus words still ring in my ears.
You see, it’s not about not about being secretive…Jesus uses secrecy as a means to point to our need recognize what is important to us. We should not be seeking acknowledgement by others. Check your hearts today and if by your worship or your life you are looking for acknowledgement from your peers rather than from God, now is a good time to turn that around.
In Jesus Christ,
Rev. Matthew S. Mayes