Does God want us to have religion? (Mt 6:1-18)
On Friday, Jesus was teaching us how we will interact in the world when we have been transformed by the Holy Spirit. Today, we’ll begin to discuss how He tells us to accomplish this with an overview of the religious life of His day (which is not so different from what is common today). If you have not, please read the first post in this discussion of the Sermon on the Mount here, before continuing.
The Jews felt that there were three areas of religious duties prescribed within the Law. These were:
- Giving to the poor
The problem with the people of His day was that they were all about the outward appearance of spirituality, but in reality they were practicing vain religion. In all three areas, the people were making a show of their good deeds without their hearts being in it. Jesus said, “they have received their reward in full.” In other words, God did not value what they gave since they gave to gain respect for themselves in the community. When it comes to giving, prayer, and fasting, Jesus encourages us to do these things out of love without others around us even knowing that we did so. And through this, He stores up “treasure in Heaven” for us as we will see in a couple days. That is not to say that you do not ever pray for someone out loud, you certainly should, or that you shouldn’t give money when the circumstances would cause others to know about it, but you should never be doing these things to impress men. They should be acts of worship that bring you closer to God.
Tomorrow we will go deeper into how to pray. Jesus lays out clear instructions on how to communicate with God as a Citizen of Heaven and a son of God. Make sure to invite others to join this discussion.