Summary of passage: Do not give just to be seen by others; otherwise, you have no reward in heaven. Basically, give from your heart not out of obligation and not to brag about it. Same with prayer. Pray alone to the Father and don’t pray just to be seen as holy or righteous. Pray from the heart. Don’t pray with meaningless words just so you can gain “bonus points” in heaven for God already knows what you need before you ask.
Jesus models how to pray by citing the Lord’s prayer: Your kingdom come and will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Forgive us our debts and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
Forgive men who sin against you as God does or He will not forgive you. Fast for God, not for man.
3a) “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” “I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”
b) Personal Question. My answer: It’s not about doing things just to be seen or just because you feel it’s your duty. It’s about helping others and devoting yourself to God because you want to and because it’s in your heart. It doesn’t matter if man thinks you are a good Christian or not. It only matters what God sees. Random acts of kindness done for no personal glorification or acknowledgement is what God wants. My goal is to do more little things for others without being acknowledged and work up to the big things.
4a) Personal Question. My answer: We are to give to the needy generously. We are to forgive others like God has forgiven us.
b) Personal Question. My answer: God wants our full attention when we pray to Him and He wants our heart, not some mumbo-gumbo that is meaningless. From the Lord’s prayer, I see how it honors God, focuses on His will in my life today, forgiving others and staying out of temptation and evil. Fast for God, not others.
5a) They do it out of a sense of duty or obligation or to be seen as good people or because their friend or someone they admire is doing it so they feel they should do it so they can be friends with that person. Or they do religious activities to impress others or for bragging rights.
b) Personal Question. My answer: God says “you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven.” I don’t know what God’s rewards are (besides blessings) but I don’t know what rewards await me in Heaven but if I do things without the right heart, I gain none of those.
c) Their reward is the trumpet sounds, the applause from others, an earthly reward. They will not receive a reward in heaven.
d) Personal Question. My answer: Do things for Him out of a good heart for His glory and not for man’s.
Conclusions: I love the emphasis on praying in a quiet place, just you and God. It’s a good reminder of why we do charity work–for God and not ourselves or others. Let God be present in the work and the idea is to be barely conscious of the good deeds you are doing.
This is a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has not moved. The main message here: Live for God and not yourself. He is the only one that matters. We work for heavenly rewards, not earthly ones. They are far more important than a “slap on the back”.
End Notes: The ancient Greek word for room was a storehouse where treasures were kept. The idea is go to a place to pray where you will receive treasure (or rewards in heaven).
Jesus was the first to pray to God as the Father in heaven. Jews did not call God “Father” because it was considered too intimate.
Notice in the Lord’s prayer it’s about God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will. We are to pray for our needs daily. Debts are our sins.
Notice the missing line at the end of the Lord’s prayer (at least in my Bible it’s missing): “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Scholars think this line was not written by Matthew but added later by scribes who copied the Bible. Thus, it has been deleted from many Bibles. When I was a kid, I memorized this line.
Fasting was a command under Old Testament law (Leviticus 16:29-31 and 23:37-32; Numbers 29:7) and practiced at other times as well (Zechariah 7:3-5; 8:19) that is not eradicated with the New Covenant so it is hard for us to understand it. But the Pharisees fasted twice a week (Luke 18:12) and would make sure everyone knew they were fasting. Again, a command by God corrupted by man that Jesus here is correcting.