Today, we are going to cover the Lord’s Prayer.
Read Matt 6:9-15.
This chapter is packed. If you’ve been to church for a while, chances are, you’ve probably listened to sermons about the Lord’s Prayer, or storing up treasures in heaven, or seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness first. But what you may or may not have heard is a high level sermon which brings these pieces together. We mustn’t forget that Jesus preached a single sermon that spans from Matthew 5-7. He didn’t preach the first part of chapter 5, then send everyone home and preach the next part from chapter 6 the following week. It was a single sermon covered in one sitting. This is before TV and internet and smarthphones so people had longer attention spans. These are not individual ideas that he is stringing together loosely. Jesus, the master teacher, is taking one idea and fleshing it out in different ways. Like taking a single diamond and holding it up to the sunlight. Jesus holds up this one teaching and allows us, the audience, to look at it from various angles.
What’s the big idea that Jesus is trying to communicate? He is giving us a litmus test. What is a litmus test? In chemistry, you take a piece of paper called litmus paper and you dip the paper into a solution and the paper changes color, determining whether the solution is acidic or basic. Here, Jesus is giving a spiritual litmus test. Dip your life into these verses and determine for yourself–am I saved or not?
In Matthew 5, Jesus talked about what a Christian is. A Christian is one who is blessed by God, one who is characterized by certain personal traits (i.e. blessed are the poor in spirit) and certain relational traits (blessed are the meek). Then, Jesus covered the impact that a Christian has in the world–he or she is salt, he or she is light. Next, Jesus ended chapter 5 by contrasting the self-generated righteousness, or the self-righteousness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law–what we might classify today as a churchgoer who is not saved–contrasting this with a true Christian who has experienced a deep, inner change of the heart. It’s not just certain moral do’s and don’ts such as thou shalt not murder or thou shalt not commit adultery, but Jesus assumes that Christians have experienced a change so deep that there is no more anger and no more lust. Those are litmus tests. Not modifying behavior which anyone can do if you have strong willpower or you are disciplined, but deep, internal change which only God can do. And a very accurate litmus test that we covered at the end of chapter 5 is love for the enemy. A religious person can love a close friend, a family member, those who are good to them. But only a born again believer can love an enemy.
Let’s continue to trace Jesus’ train of thought into chapter 6. Jesus continues to give us a series of litmus tests, or ways in which we can self-examine whether or not we are truly saved. Now, we get to examine our inner motivations as it pertains to giving to the poor, prayer, and fasting, and we’ll end with an important litmus test–our attitude toward money.
The first litmus test–Christianity is not a show. If you are living out your faith before men, then you might not be saved.
The section before the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus warns us not to be fooled by false religion. Don’t be fooled by the way of the Pharisee, the highly trained religious person. The guy who is holier than thou on Sundays decked out in his suit and tie, but Monday through Saturday, there is not a whiff of God’s presence. Beware of the deception of religion. The person can look and smell like a Christian, but underneath the covers, there is nothing there. There is no life. It might look like a yummy burger and you expect grease and that unmistakable beef flavor and you bite into it but you realize that you just bit into a soy burger. Or a burger made out of tofu. It’s fake. You’ve been fooled.
Previously in chapter 5, righteousness related to kindness, purity, honesty and love for an enemy. This is righteousness in terms of personal morality. Now in this chapter, righteousness refers to religious practices such as giving money to the poor, praying and fasting. In both cases, the point is the same. You can act a certain way, you can seem godly because you don’t do certain things, you can seem like you love God by how you act at church, but there are hidden things, hidden thoughts, hidden motives, hidden desires that are not visible before people. But God sees the heart.
1 “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
We usually use this verse in a joking way. If one of the brothers stayed up late working on something for church, he would tell someone, Yeah, I was up until 4am working on the skit for Sunday. And the person hearing this could joke, why are you telling me? Sorry, bro, because you told me, you just lost your reward in heaven. When someone tells you, I stayed up until 4am doing God’s work, they are expecting a certain kind of response. Oh, you poor thing. Wow, are you okay this morning? Hey – brother so and so was up until 4am. Please be nice to him. Someone get him a cup of coffee.
Some churches take it a step farther. The brother who stayed up until 4am is asked to share a testimony at church. There’s nothing wrong with sharing a testimony at church and having everyone be challenged to have a greater desire to serve, or evangelize, or whatever. But we have to be careful. There’s a fine line between sharing a testimony for God’s glory and the edification of the church vs. a testimony that creates a culture where human approval is at the center.
It’s a fine line. You can hear a testimony and instead of praising God, you can think in this way. Why is this guy is getting all the attention? What about me? How come I am not getting noticed? What do I have to do around here to get a pat on the back? I know – next week, I am going to pray for 10 hours and then tell my small group leader and then maybe I’ll get asked to share a testimony about the power of prayer. So that people will look up to me.
This person might actually pray for 10 hours, but if this is what is going on in his heart, what would you say about his or her prayers? You would conclude, it’s all for show. You wouldn’t joke, oh no, you told me so I guess you lost your reward in heaven. Wink, wink. Emoticon. Smily face. This is not a joke. This is no laughing matter. This is serious. We have to be careful what kind of culture we create here.
2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
The point is not, those who make it a habit to tell others what they are doing for the Lord will get a lesser heavenly reward. The point is, if this is your heart, that the only reason you do things is to get noticed or to be appreciated, the reason you won’t be getting a reward in heaven is because you won’t be getting into heaven. Because you’re not saved. You say you’re saved, you do things that a saved person would do, but there is no life in you.
Jesus is warning us about the dreaded “H” word. Hypocrite. Beware of hypocrisy. In classical Greek, the term “hypocrite” referred to orators and actors. To an actor, he or she can be shyest person in the world, but when the spotlight is on, when you’re on stage, when the camera is rolling, they become a totally different person. We all know guys like that. They are actors, they are playing the part of a character from a script. They lay aside their true identity and assume a false one. The world is a stage. And they’re there to put on a show.
So what is a religious hypocrite? A person who deliberately sets out to deceive people. They act a certain way at church but it’s a theatrical display because at the core, the motivation is not God’s glory but the applause of men.
It’s easy to poke fun at the Pharisees. The picture in v2 is a guy who has a penny in one hand and in his other hand, he’s got a trumpet. It’s so ridiculous. This guy is a clown. A phony. Who is he trying to fool? Does he really care about God or the hungry person in need, or is he more concerned about himself and how he is perceived?
We may not be as ostentatious as these Pharisees, but don’t we like to toot our own horn once in a while? The way of the Pharisee is the way of ostentation and the underlying motivation is, Look at me. Notice me. Pay attention to me. It’s like Usain Bolt winning the gold in the 100 meters and strutting around, catch me if you can, I know I’m fast and now I’ve proved it to a billion people. Give me the gold. Give me the glory. Pay attention to me.