Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. – Vs 1
Chapter six is a continuation of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. He has been talking about raising the bar on righteousness. He isn't looking for some kind of external brand of righteousness based on keeping a set of rules. He isn't interested in Pharasaical, hypocritical righteousness that looks good on the outside, but is just a sham. No, Jesus is looking for godly righteousness. And in chapter six He elaborates even more on what He means. Jesus says, "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" (NIV). To illustrate what He is talking about, Jesus uses three common "righteous" practices of the Pharisees: Fasting, prayer, and money. For the Pharisees, this had become a spectator sport. They did everything to be noticed by men. They wanted the accolades and recognition for all their effort. But Jesus says that when you pray you should do so in secret. He says that when you fast, don't broadcast it to all those around you so they will think you're religious. No, instead, do your best to look as though you aren't fasting at all. Don't let anyone know. And when it comes to money, Jesus says that we are to seek heavenly treasure, not earthly. The Pharisees were guilty of tithing, but also hoarding. They were storing up treasure for themselves here on earth. And their love of treasure reflected their own hearts.
Again, theirs was an external righteousness. It was all for who. For the recognition of men. But Jesus says that we are to have a heavenly perspective. Our prayers are heaven-directed. Our fasting is God-focused. Our treasure is heaven-oriented. We are God-pleasers, not men-pleasers. We fast to get closer to God, not to be recognized by men. We store up treasure in heaven so that we can free with whatever treasure we have on earth. Jesus is talking about a new kind of righteousness. It is not of this world. It runs counter to the religions of this world.
Jesus knows that most of our problems stem from a worry that we will miss out. We worry that we won't have enough. We worry that we won't be recognized as righteous by others. We get anxious over not having enough or losing what we have. So Jesus reminds us not to be worried. He says not to worry about food, drink, or clothing. He will take care of His own. Instead, we are to seek God's kingdom and His righteousness. We are to make His kingdom the highest priority in our lives, not our own kingdom. We are to make His brand of righteousness our goal, not some man-made brand of self-righteousness.
Jesus came to bring a new kingdom. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is disclosing what that kingdom is like. It is radically different. It is not of this world. It has different priorities and is backed by a different power. What Jesus was teaching was revolutionary and different. This wasn't religion as usual. God's brand of righteousness has a better reward than just the recognition of men. It is eternal and internal. It really does change who we are and how we act. No more facade. No more faking. It's the real thing.
Father, thank You for providing a righteousness that is not only real, it's attainable. It isn't based on my self-effort. Because if it was, I would always fail. It is based on the blood of Jesus Christ, Your Son. What He accomplished on the cross made His righteousness available to me. I no longer have to try and fake it and attempt to impress men. My righteousness is from Him, not me. It is based on what He has done, not on what I do . Help me to keep seeking Your kingdom first and Your righteousness. When I start seeking my own righteousness, please patiently show me. Amen