When you go to work you will encounter all kinds of needs. People need encouragement, help, support, pay, advice, challenge, rebuke and training. It will not just be your colleagues but your competitors with whom you deal; they need honesty, fair dealing and courtesy. In this global village there are people who need food, shelter and medicines.
Jesus is assuming that as a traveller on the narrow road you will be a giver. When you go to work you will encounter all kinds of landscapes. You will walk through blasphemy, immorality and unethical practices. You will race with other rats for your share of the spoils. You will stub your toe on arguments and quarrels, trip up over your mistakes and find yourself tempted to compromise right, left and middle.
Jesus is assuming that as a traveller on the narrow road you will pray. When you go to work you will encounter situations around you and within you that you cannot resolve. You will find yourself in need of a breakthrough, a tipping point or a deep insight. You may find you have lost a sense of God or gained a sense of evil. You may find you are addicted to something which doesn’t help you progress. Jesus is assuming that as a traveller on the narrow road you will fast.
So he doesn’t command it, but simply says “when you” do these things. What he is concerned about is how you do them, when you do them. His overriding principle is to make sure that you give, pray and fast in a way that doesn’t draw attention to yourself. You don’t announce your behaviour with fanfares or deliberately do it where you can be seen, nor do you make yourself look drab to illustrate your ascetism. This is quite a challenge. How do you give so that it is not broadcast; how do you find secret places to pray; how do you fast without letting on?
But when you do it in this self-effacing, secret, unrewarded way your Father sees and will reward you. If you do it with bangs, whistles and ceremony you reward yourself and seek praise from others, and that will be it, but it won’t satisfy nor will it be the real deal. Somehow you and I have to figure out the secretive way.
1″Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2″So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
5″And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room,close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9″This, then, is how you should pray:
” ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your
name, 10your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
11Give us today our daily bread.
12Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
16″When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
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