The book of Matthew has always been one of my favorite New Testament writings; this isn’t because I think its “better” than other texts, but it is the one I really dove into first when I gave my life to Christ at the age of 17. Matthew 4 constantly gave me life and hope when I saw the way Jesus dealt with struggles and temptations.
When I was in my first semester at Bible college, the first time I moved away to somewhere I’d never lived with people I had never met, some of those comforts of “home”: hometown, home church, family, friends, etc… were no longer there.
And this was a good thing. It opened my eyes to truly understanding that I need Christ more than anything or anyone else. He is always there with me.
On this certain day in that first semester, I was feeling dry. I was feeling down. I was feeling like there was a big chunk of me missing. I had to go to class but I knew there was something I needed to do in order to establish a healthy foundation with Christ. I couldn’t lean on people, churches, jobs, or things: I needed to lean solely on Christ. Without looking at a Bible, Matthew 6 jumped in my head. I couldn’t remember what was in it. But I Felt this very present, burning desire to finish up my class and run back to my room, close the door, and go spend time with God: in prayer and in the Word.
I did that very thing. I hurried back to my room, closed the door shut and opened up my Bible to Matthew 6.
Funny thing: its about prayer. Its all about how we can and should pray. And to put the cherry on top: Verse 6 just lays it out “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
Instantly I was like “OK God, I’m listening!”
So this is a passage I love to look back to, glean from, and continue to go deeper into it because it impacted me in such a positive way as God spoke to me as a young college student.
What I want to focus on today is, as you may have guessed, the “And when you” statements.
These statements are really about how to do good things without them becoming about us. Its about remembering why we are doing what we do: giving, praying, you name it.
Jesus starts this chapter off with a warning, to be careful to not boast our righteousness just to be noticed by those around us. The reward isn’t to be recognized for “how great we are” but to point out how great God is and one day receive the reward of living eternally with Him!
The “and when you” statements that follow are directly related to this warning. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you like the hypocrites. Rather, give in secret, not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing. God will reward you, don’t try to force an earthly reward by making sure people know how great of a giver you are.
Likewise, when we pray, it shouldn’t be done boasting lofty words out loud from the street corners.
Rather, as I mentioned earlier, when we pray, we need to focus solely on God. Prayer isn’t about how eloquent we sound to our friends and fellow believers. If that is the reward we seek, then it pales in comparison to the reward we receive for truly caring for actually recognizing that this conversation and intimate time spent with God is far greater.
Notice the theme here: The thing that all of these “and when you” statements have in common is that it requires us to turn our eyes towards Christ and away from ourselves. Our prayers, our giving, our _____, fill in the blank, need to be so sincere and honest that if all we have is prayer time in a sectioned off closet in our house where no one but God can hear us and know we have a vibrant prayer life and in our giving, if no one in the world knows that we give a dime to help anyone or anything, then that is enough because it is for God.
This does not mean that people can’t know we give or can’t hear us pray, though. What ultimately is important here is our attitude that goes into it. Are we seeking approval of man and thus cheapening the authority of God in our lives?
Essentially, if we care more about what those around us think more than Him, then that is what we are doing.
Its about trust. We need to trust God throughout all of this. This is discussed here in verse 8 “So do not be like them;” (the hypocrites, the Pharisees, those who are putting on a show for men rather than seeking after God’s heart) “for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”
That right there is deep! We get so wrapped up in what others think and the pseudo-approval we think we need from them that we sail right past the mark God has for us.
Jesus then outlines a wonderful prayer for us that should guide our lives: Give glory to God, seek His kingdom, trust Him to provide for our needs, help us to love and forgive those around us, protection us from evil and temptation, and recognize that God is in control.
So, when you _________, trust in the Lord! We are living in a time where everyone seems to be at odds with one another. We live in a time where it may feel confusing as to how to “be Christ to the world”. It can be hard, especially if we try putting everything on our own shoulders.
It is as important as ever to seek to live like Christ. When we focus on the things that are close to His heart and make it our priority to please Him rather than ourselves or others first, that is when greater things will come. Trust in Christ, God knows our needs, let us seek His will here on the Earth.