15. Sermon on the mount (2 of 3)
Sermon on the mount (2 of 3)….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. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
¶And when thou prayest, thou shalt 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. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
After this manner therefore pray ye:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men then neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
¶Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
¶Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
¶No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other: or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
Which of you by taking thought can add one cubic unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (for after all these things do the Gentiles seek) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Scripture: Matthew 6:1-18
Meditation 1 of 3:
Why did Jesus single out prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for his disciples? The Jews considered these three as the cardinal works of the religious life. These were seen as the key signs of a pious person, the three great pillars on which the good life was based. Jesus pointed to the heart of the matter. Why do you pray, fast, and give alms? To draw attention to yourself so that others may notice and think highly of you? Or to give glory to God? The Lord warns his disciples of self-seeking glory — the preoccupation with looking good and seeking praise from others. True piety is something more than feeling good or looking holy. True piety is loving devotion to God. It is an attitude of awe, reverence, worship and obedience. It is a gift and working of the Holy Spirit that enables us to devote our lives to God with a holy desire to please him in all things (Isaiah 11:1-2).
Do you pray with joy and confidence? The Jews were noted for their devotion to prayer. Formal prayer was prescribed for three set times a day. And the rabbis had a prayer for every occasion. Jesus warns his disciples against formalism, making prayer something mechanical and devoid of meaning, with little thought for God. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray he gave them the disciple’s prayer, what we call the Our Father or Lord’s Prayer. This prayer dares to call God “our Father” and boldly asks for the things we need to live as his sons and daughters. It is through the gift of the Holy Spirit that we can know God personally and call him “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15). We can approach God our Father with confidence and boldness because Jesus Christ has opened the way to heaven for us through his death and resurrection. When we ask God for help, he fortunately does not give us what we deserve. Instead, he responds with grace and mercy. He is kind and forgiving towards us and he expects us to treat our neighbor the same. Do you treat others as they deserve, or do you treat them as the Lord would with grace and mercy? Jesus’ prayer includes an injunction that we must ask God to forgive us in proportion as we forgive those who have wronged us. Ask the Lord to fill you with the fire of his love and mercy.
What is the sure reward which Jesus points out to his disciples? It is communion with God our Father. In him alone we find the fullness of life and happiness, and truth and love. Saint Augustine of Hippo wrote the following prayer in his Confessions: When I am completely united to you, there will be no more sorrows or trials; entirely full of you, my life will be complete. The Lord rewards those who seek him earnestly with humble and repentant hearts. He renews us each day and he gives us new hearts of love and compassion that we may serve him and our neighbor with glad and generous hearts. Do you want to grow in your love for God and for your neighbor? Seek him expectantly in prayer, with fasting, and in generous giving to those in need.
“Lord, give me a lively faith, a firm hope, a fervent charity, and a great love for you. Take from me all lukewarmness in the meditation of your word, and dullness in prayer. Give me fervor and delight in thinking of you and your grace, and fill me with compassion for others, especially those in need, that I may respond with generosity”
Scripture: Matthew 6:19-23
Meditation 2 of 3:
Jesus used the images of treasure and eyesight to covey the hidden truth of God’s kingdom. What Jesus said about treasure made perfect sense to his audience: keep what lasts! Aren’t we all trying to find the treasure which brings security and happiness? Jesus contrasts two very different kinds of wealth — material and spiritual goods. Jesus urges his disciples to get rich by investing in that which truly lasts, not just for a life-time, but for all eternity. How attainable is this heavenly treasure and can we enjoy it now, or must we wait for it in the after-life? The treasure of God’s kingdom is both a present and future reality for those who seek it. What is this treasure which Jesus offers so freely? It is the joy of knowing the living God, being united with him, and receiving the inheritance of an imperishable kingdom — a kingdom of peace, joy, and righteousness. Since one’s whole life is directed by that which he most values, to set one’s heart on heavenly treasure will be to enter into a deeper and richer life with God. Which treasure do you seek, earthly or heavenly treasure?
Jesus also used the image of eyesight to convey an important spiritual principle. Bad eyesight is often used as a metaphor for stupidity and spiritual blindness. (For examples, see Matt. 15:14, 23:16 ff.; John 9:39-41; Ro. 2 2:19; II Peter 1:9; and Revelations 3:17.) The eye is the window of the heart, mind, and “inner being” of a person. If the window is clouded, dirty, or marred in any manner, the light will be deflected and diminished. Just so with the “inner being” of a person! How we “see” affects the “inner life”, “heart”, and “soul” of an individual. What can blind or distort our “vision” of what is true, good, lovely, pure and everlasting (Phil. 4:8)? Certainly prejudice, jealousy, and self-conceit cause distortion or blindness. Prejudice destroys good judgment and blinds us to the facts and to their significance for us. Jealousy makes us distrustful and suspicious of others and distorts our ability to accurately examine the facts. We need to fearlessly examine ourselves to see if we are living according to right principles or if we might be misguided by prejudice or some other conceit. Love is not jealous …but rejoices with the truth (1 Cor. 13:4-6). Do you rejoice in what is right and good and do you live your life in the light of God’s truth?
“Lord, your word is life for us. Fill me with your light and truth, and give me understanding of your ways. Free me from all that is false, illusory, ugly, and unloving. Let my heart know only one treasure–the joy and bliss of union with you–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
Scripture: Matthew 6:24-34
Meditation 3 of 3:
What does “serving two masters” and “anxiety” have in common? They both have the same root problem — being divided within oneself. The root word for “anxiety” literally means “being of two minds”. An anxious person is often “tossed to and fro” and paralyzed by indecision. Fear of some bad outcome usually cripples those afflicted with anxiety. It’s also the case with someone who wants to submit to God but also live according to the world’s standards of success and fulfillment. Who is the master in charge of your life? Our “master” is that which governs our thought-life, shapes our ideals, controls the desires of the heart and the values we choose to live by. We can be ruled by many different things — the love of money or possessions, the power of position, the glamour of wealth and prestige, the driving force of unruly passions and addictions. Ultimately the choice boils down to two: God and “mammon”. What is mammon? “Mammon” stands for “material wealth or possessions” or whatever tends to “control our appetites and desires”. There is one Master alone who has the power to set us free from the slavery of sin and fear. That Master is the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus uses an illustration from nature — the birds and the flowers — to show how God provides for them in the natural order of his creation. How much more can we, as his children, rely upon God’s providential care? God is utterly reliable. In the Lord’s Prayer we are reminded that God is our provider when we pray: Give us this day our daily bread. What is bread, but the very staple of life and symbol of all that we need to live and grow. Anxiety is neither helpful nor necessary. It robs us of faith and confidence in God’s help and it saps our energy for doing good. Jesus admonishes his followers to put away anxiety and preoccupation with material things and instead to seek first the things of God — his kingdom and righteousness. Anxiety robs the heart of trust in the mercy and goodness of God and in his loving care for us. God knows our needs even before we ask and he gives generously to those who trust in him. Who is your master — God or mammon?
“Lord, free me from needless worries and help me to put my trust in you. Make my first concern your kingdom and your righteousness. Help me to live each day with trust and gratitude for your providential care for me”