(One Perfect Life Chapters 52-53) The Greatest commandment is to “love Yehovah your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Part of the way we show our love for God is through our faith-based practices. Jesus addresses three of these practices – charitable giving, prayer and fasting.
He instructs us that these activities are to be done in private. They are to be done for the glory of God. He points out that some people engage in these practices publicly to glorify themselves – not God. They are looking for approval from men and not the approval of their Father in heaven. He warns His listeners that if they do these things with the wrong motivations they will receive no reward from God. Their reward will be limited to the feeding of their pride by the praise they get from men. When we perform these same activities privately (for an audience of One) and with proper motives, then the Father will reward us openly. Glorifying God is the goal and the purpose of our lives.
While we are not to seek the approval of others, we are designed to live in community with others. In the disciples prayer (the Our Father) all of the pronouns are plural – “our” and “us.” Jesus is giving us an outline for our prayers as individuals. He is also demonstrating that we are to pray for and support one another. Prayer is one means by which we fulfill the second great commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.
In the Old Testament the people transitioned from serving idols as false gods to serving wealth as their false God. Jesus warns His followers in Matthew 6:24 that they cannot serve both God and money (mammon). Mammon means “the treasure a person trusts in.” Paul warns Christians to not “set their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.” (1 Timothy 6:17). Similarly Moses had warned the people to not “say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you are to remember Yehovah your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18).
When we trust in God we store up “treasures in heaven” and are free from anxiety over meeting our daily needs – food, shelter and clothing. When we trust in ourselves and in our wealth by storing up “treasures on earth”, we get no reward in heaven and we are subject to continual fears about meeting our basic needs.
Man’s way is to feed his pride by receiving the approval of others and to trust in their abilities and wealth. God’s way is for us to live to His glory. He rewards our humility with treasure in heaven and with the reassurance that He will supply us with what we need to meet our daily necessities.