SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- Jesus' teaching centers on motivation for daily living. Jesus tells us that when we do spiritual activities solely to get noticed, we don’t get closer to God. He mentions that when we do those same things in secret, God notices and rewards us. We should focus our lives and behaviors on growing closer to God and avoid showing off how close to God we are. So what behaviors get us close to God? Jesus mentions a few, assuming his audience already practices them:
- Giving to the needy - God cares deeply for people the world ignores. We should too.
- Prayer - Jesus says that when we pray we don’t have to use lots of words or make our prayer fancy. Instead he gives four good things to pray about:
- God’s plans to be accomplished
- Our needs to be met
- Our sins to be forgiven
- Deliverance from temptation and evil
- Notice that Jesus teaches us to pray directly to God, who is our Father. Also notice how serious Jesus is about forgiveness. It’s a big deal.
- Fasting - Fasting is abstaining from a physical need, such as food, to focus on a spiritual need, such as prayer. He shows that this activity should also be done to grow closer to God and not to show off.
- Then Jesus spends some time addressing the attitude his followers have towards money. In verse 21, He very clearly teaches that what we put our money into demonstrates what we care about. And in verse 24, He teaches that you cannot love both God and money. You have to choose which will have your heart and be your master.
- The chapter ends with Jesus telling us that we don't have to worry, because we have a God who will take care of us. When we worry, we are taking His place as God of our lives.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
- This chapter really is about things that draw us closer to God (giving to the needy, prayer, fasting) and things that pull us away from God (like loving money, worrying). We need to decide if we want to live a life of getting closer to God, or a life of moving further away from Him. That decision should dictate what we do with prayer and fasting and money and everything else in our lives. And the cool thing is that we have a loving powerful Father who will take care of us. This is why Jesus says, in verse 33, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." If we focus our lives on passionately pursuing God, He will make sure all our needs are met appropriately.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
- Take a minute to rate yourself on how you’re doing in the following areas: Giving to the needy, Prayer, and Fasting. How can you do these things, but make sure you're not showing off in doing them? And, by the way, fasting doesn’t have to necessarily be from food. Try spending a period of time avoiding something you enjoy that isn’t a necessity and praying instead. Whenever you think about that thing you’re “fasting” from, remind yourself to pray or recite a verse you're memorizing from the bible. Verses 19-21 as well as 33 from this chapter are great ones to memorize.
- Be honest with yourself about where you're at with money. Is it possible that money is really your God? Most of us would say no. But God commands us to give money generously back to Him through our church. If you are not giving generously to God, who has more authority in your life - money or God? Take some time to talk to God about this.