A Paltry Reward

Would you agree with me that perhaps the most feared words of Christ are:  I never knew you: Depart from me. It comes from Matthew 7:21-23:

21. Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.

22. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works?

23. And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.

Pretty harsh, huh?  It is unfortunate that many, many will hear them.

But there are some other words of Christ that we don’t often catch when reading scripture – much less think about them as being so terrible, but in reality, they, too,  are quite disturbing. Read this from Matthew 6:2:

Therefore when you do [give] your alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Truly I say to you, They have their reward.

And a second passage from Matthew 6:5:

And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Truly I say to you, They have their reward.

Let�s not stop with these two — once again from Matthew 6:16:

Moreover when you fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear to men to fast. Truly I say to you, They have their reward.

So looking at these three verses, what’s the common phrase?  Right! It’s this:  They have their reward.

This chapter deals with pride and with the way we carry ourselves in public. In short, we are not to make a public spectacle out of our tithing or offering to the church (or to any charity or person who is in need).

Nor are we to make a big deal out of praying.  Long, embellished prayers filled with “Father God” or “Heavenly Father” after every other word would fit here.  I once went to an event (essentially a secular event) and the invocation prayer went something like:  Oh, most revered and holy Father, we invite Thee to our function today and entreat Thee to guide us on our journey and so forth.  Definitely a prayer meant to impress the audience.

Thirdly, when fasting: it doesn’t make you more spiritual when a big deal is made out of your fasting – if you fast.  It is something I highly recommend – it is good for the body and good for the soul.  But it should be done so that people don’t even know what you’re doing. Jesus says to wash your face and anoint your head – look natural and fresh, not bedraggled like it is a thing that is impossible to do.

All those about whom Jesus was talking had pride – pride in their actions and hearts and He said they received their reward: the people in the synogogue and city who saw them thought admired them or so they imagined. I would imagine the men and women who witnessed the display maybe considered it for a few steps down the block and then promptly forgot about it as soon as they had to start haggling over the price a  chicken in the marketplace. The Pharisee and Sadducee who practiced this got their reward and would get none from God.  They received admiration from man – a pretty paltry reward considering it was so short-lived.

The more I read the Bible, the more I am convinced that pride is at the top of God’s blacklist. It seems to make sense, too, when you think about all the people of the Bible who had problems in their daily life as well as having to deal with God’s judgment and wrath.  They all had a better way or they felt they were so strong in popularity or in military strength that they could discard God’s way and be a god to the people they ruled.  What is it we always hear?  “Pride goeth before a fall.”God hates pride because it is the first step we mortals make on the road to thinking of ourselves as gods.

How then shall we gain our true reward?

It’s best to find a quiet place.  If you are at home any place that�s comfortable as long as you won’t fall asleep. In public, a quiet corner of a coffee shop or restaurant, a park any place you happen to be, will have to do.  If this is the case, a discrete folding of the hands and closing of the eyes.  Most of all, pray to God as you would speak to a friend.  He doesn’t hear you any better if you intersperse His name with every-other word of your prayer.

Have a conversation with Him.  He doesn’t care about thees and thous and other haughty language.  He cares about you. He wants to know what you are up to, what’s bothering you and what your wishes are. But it is also important to know that God is not a vending machine.  He’s not there to give, give, give.  You can’t put in a quarter and press a button labeled SALVATION or PEACE OF MIND or A BETTER JOB WITH HIGHER PAY and expect to get it. It doesn’t work that way.  He’s there to be your best friend who will never let you down.  Believe me, He won’t let you down.  Yes, He may not answer the way you wanted or the way you think is best, but from God’s vantage-point, it will be the best.

That addresses prayer – but what about giving?

If you wish to give direct assistance to someone in need in your neighborhood – don’t announce at the supermarket that the food you are buying is going to a needy family. Keep you mouth shut. If  possible, give anonymously.  Put the groceries on the step on a dark night, ring the door bell and run away to keep the recipients from knowing the identity of the Good Samaritan. Or have the grocery store or someone else deliver them for you.  I know people who have done this and they have told me it is the most gratifying experience they have had.

As far as fasting goes – no one needs to know.  There are many reasons for fasting.  Some fast for cleansing of the body – some for cleansing of the spirit – some … just because.  If  a person announces he is fasting for a particular reason, doesn’t it border on bragging which is a form of pride?  It sure seems that way to me.  Frankly, I don’t want to know all the dark secrets of my friends and acquaintances.  I don’t want to know all the spiritual strongholds that hold in them in bondage any more than I want to know how much fat they’ve lost around the belly or thighs through fasting! I am willing to help when a person comes to me with remorse and humility, but it better be genuine and not only because they have been caught in their sin!

Thank you.

May the Lord bless you and keep you – May His face shine upon you and give you His peace.

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