One of the great challenges I have observed and experienced nine months into pastoral ministry is the balance of public persona and private devotional life. What I mean by that is the life I live in public is the same life I live when I am alone. I don’t think this is only a problem for pastors, though. All Christians seem to struggle here. The struggle is really one of motivation. We have seen throughout Matthew 5 true righteousness begins with and is a matter of the heart. Matthew 6 continues with this theme of what true righteousness looks like. What it boils down to is this: Who are you living for—the approval of men or the approval of God? In other words, the question is not first about the ‘what’ but the ‘why’. Jesus gives us three examples of His day: giving to the poor, prayer, and fasting. These are applicable to our lives as well but it is worth noting such activities were the sign of spiritual piety in this age. Nevertheless, Jesus addresses each subject by saying what should not be done, that what motivation should not be driving us (6:1, 5, 16). The point is a call to be holy is not a call to be hypocritical. True righteousness does not give to the needy or pray to be seen and to be recognized by men. No, true righteousness is not motivated by the approval of man. True righteousness is motivated by the approval of God in Christ. When we respond to the gospel by repentance and faith, we are approved by God because of Christ’s righteousness. As a result, the Christian practices holiness, may it be giving to the needy, praying, or fasting, motivated by the gospel of God. To do otherwise is to live hypocritically, either out of a false hope for salvation or out of vain human recognition. Simply put, we as the people of God are called to practice what can be termed “secret sincerity”. We must be genuine in our faith, living it out by obeying the Word of God in giving and devoting ourselves to prayer. Our sincerity shows through when we do it in secret. In secret, our hearts are revealed. In secret, we find who we are really serving. As Christians, we are motivated to practice holiness because of the God “who sees in secret” (6:4, 6, 18). Live in secret sincerity!
- Why do you practice things such as giving, praying, or fasting? What do these motivations say about your walk with Christ?