I love to play word games and I love to win. Yes, I’m competitive. Competition is everywhere in our world but when it comes to life, things become more serious than a board game.” There are really high stakes when it comes to our spiritual life. Whose attention are we really competing for when are giving, praying, and fasting? Jesus presents us with these examples in the Sermon on the Mount.
GIVE…”so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:4). “When you PRAY, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (6:6). “When you FAST, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you (6:17-18). The Pharisees did these things for others to see and that was their only reward Jesus explained. We can be pretty happy with ourselves for serving God in these ways and that’s a reward. But if we give, pray and fast in secret, like Jesus instructs, we are promised an even greater reward. A reward from our Father in heaven, the giver of all good gifts.
We all want earthly prizes and at times they are easy to obtain. But God would have us desire and pursue his heavenly rewards. God knows all and sees all no matter where we are. Acting in secret is for our benefit. It’s so the focus is not on others seeing us, and not boasting in ourselves, but focusing on the relationship we have with Jesus himself. He is our all, and when we have him we have everything. It’s so God alone will get the glory from all we do and say. It’s so God alone can give us the reward.
What is this reward God’s ready for us to receive? It is the eyes of our hearts being opened to see the reality of his presence and his Kingdom. Jesus wasn’t asking the disciples to outdo the Pharisees in giving, praying or fasting. He wasn’t even asking the disciples to give more, pray more, or fast more. Jesus is asking us to get ourselves out of the way so we can see more of him. Make God your only audience. Seek only his attention, not the praise of others or yourself. When we see Jesus and his ways, our perspective towards our self and others will reflect him. Spend some time alone with Jesus and let him lavish his love on you today. His rewards are beyond our imagination.
By Donna Burns