By The Rev. Ron Purkey
Read: Matthew 6:1-18
“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1)
The Lord Jesus Christ puts worship first since one’s relationship to God determines his or her relationship to the world and other people. The key is Matthew 6:1, where “alms” should be translated “righteousnesses.”
The main thought is that our relationship to God must be secret, for God to see and not for people to applaud. God will not allow two rewards, one from humans and one from heaven!
First, Giving (Matthew 6:1-4). The Pharisees loved to advertise their giving (Mark 12:38-40). How people today love to tell others how much they have given! If this is their motive for giving, then they have their reward — the praise of people. But they have no reward from God the Father.
Second, Praying (Matthew 6:5-15). Jesus says, “When you pray” not “If you pray”; he expects us to pray. The first thing that characterized the Apostle Paul after his conversion was his praying (Acts 22:17).
Jesus emphasizes that it is a sin to pray to be seen and heard by others. Prayer is secret fellowship with God, although public prayer is certainly authorized in the Bible. However, nobody should pray in public who does not pray in private; for that would be hypocrisy.
Jesus points out three common errors concerning prayer: (1) praying to be heard by others (Matthew 6:5-6); (2) praying mere words, empty repetition (Matthew 6:7-8); and (3) praying with sin in the heart (Matthew 6:14-15).
God does not forgive us because we forgive others but on the basis of the shed blood of Christ (1 John 1:9). However, an unforgiving spirit will hinder a prayer life and show that a person has no understanding of the grace of God.
The so-called “Lord’s Prayer” of Matthew 6:9-13 is not given to be recited thoughtlessly. Rather, it is a model for us to use to learn to pray. It is a “family prayer” — notice the repeated “our” and “us.” It puts God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will before the earthly needs of people. It cautions us against selfish praying.
Third, Fasting (Matthew 6:16-18). True fasting is of the heart, not just the body (see Joel 2:13; Isaiah 58:5). Fasting for the Christian is preparation for praying and other spiritual exercises. It means giving up a lesser thing to gain a greater, and this could involve food, sleep, and other things (1 Corinthians 7:1-6).
Remember, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Read Ron Purkey’s Bible study outlines free at rcpbibleoutlines.com. Purkey has been an ordained Baptist minister for 50 years.