by Martin Oldfield
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‘Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it’ (Matthew 6:1a).
Today’s text follows directly after the Sermon on the Mount and the call to love our enemy. On the mountain, Jesus told us to let our light shine and be the salt of the earth. He told us to let our good deeds be seen so that people may glorify God (Matthew 5:16).
In this text, he tells us to give, pray and fast in private; to do otherwise means no reward in heaven! Is he contradicting himself? No! He was declaring what his kingdom would be like. And his kingdom was not in opposition to worldly kingdoms but in opposition to the devil himself and his manifestations.
One of the manifestations was the penchant for slavishly obeying the law. Another was the religious leaders of the time who promulgated such thoughts. Giving alms to the poor ostentatiously, praying overtly and fasting to the point of neglect were common methods of proving one’s righteous demeanour. He didn’t tell us not to help the poor, pray or fast – he simply told us to do it in the right spirit – to further the kingdom, not feed the ego. Why not spend time in prayer looking for his guidance about what he would like you to do to further his kingdom?
Dear Dad, I’ve got no doubt that there are many things that I am doing that if I am really honest with myself are feeding my ego. Please bring these to my attention and redirect my energy to doing those things that glorify you, not me. Amen.