SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- Today, we continue Jesus' sermon on the mount. You will notice that his teachings center on motivation for daily living. And there is one common thread in all of them. Jesus tells us that whatever spiritual activity we do, we should do in secret. If we are doing things to show off, how can we possibly grow close to God? And the whole point of spiritual practices is to connect with God. Here are some of those practices we should implement in our daily lives.
- Giving to the needy: God cares deeply for those that 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 offers four things we should pray about:
- God’s plans for our life to be accomplished
- Our needs to be met (not wants)
- Our sins to be forgiven
- Help from temptation and evil
- Notice that Jesus teaches us to pray directly to God, who is our Father.
- 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.
- Jesus then discusses how what we spend our money on, shows what our heart cares about. He warns against spending our money on earthly wants. We should focus instead on our treasure in heaven that is to come. He also warns that you cannot love both God and money. You have to choose which one will have your heart.
- Finally, Jesus encourages us not to worry about anything. He assures us that he will meet all of our needs. Worry doesn't help us live better or longer, so why do it? Instead of spending our time in fear and worry, we should focus our thoughts on God and his love.
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 money and worry). We need to decide if we want to live our life getting closer to God, or our life moving further away from Him. That decision should dictate what we do with every decision in our lives.
- 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 money. Is it possible that money is really your God? Most of us would say no. But God commands us to give generously back to Him and to those in need. 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.