Living Before the Eyes of Our Father in Heaven
Coming now into Matthew 6, we are at the first part of a three-part section in which Jesus addresses how Christians should approach their desire for recognition in light of having a gracious and all-seeing Father in heaven. The three foci in these sections are giving to the needy, prayer, and fasting—three pillars of the Christian life. The one in focus today is giving to the needy.
As with much of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches through contrasting believers with the hypocritical religious leaders of the day. Hungry for recognition and the public clout that comes with it, these leaders would do what they needed to draw attention to themselves and their “good deeds.” Not content to be generous without the approval of all in the vicinity, these religious leaders would raise their voices and sound trumpets to puff themselves up. This is the antithesis of what Jesus desires for his followers. He desires that his followers shine the light of his righteousness for all to see (Matthew 5:14-16), but we are to do it with humility.
In no uncertain terms, Jesus tells all who would follow him to do so humbly. Humility, not recognition, is what leads to the rewards that last—eternal rewards stored up for us where no moth or rust can destroy. While the leaders of that day were using the poor as objects used to build up their social standing, Jesus commanded his followers to be so discreet that it would be as if one hand didn’t know what the other was doing (speaking figuratively). Our reward is with our Father in heaven, not here on the earth. Rewards in this life are great when we deserve them, sure, but they should not be our goal and motivation. Rather, having the privilege of serving others who are made in God’s image is an honor that comes with its own reward. “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,” Proverbs 19:17 says. Even if our deeds are never seen or known by another person, we should rejoice in knowing that we were able to give to the Lord through that act. We are to live before an audience of One, not the audience of the world.
Jesus shows us the key to living out this passage in its last verse: knowing our Father who sees in secret. Humility comes from genuinely knowing our Father. It comes from be conformed to his image and being content in who we are before him as his beloved children. When our beloved and enjoyed state before God sinks in and solidifies in our hearts, we begin to live from a place of peace, having nothing to prove to the world. Being content with how our Father sees us keeps us from competing for the approval of the world. We do not need to sound the trumpets and announce our good deeds when we know that our Father in heaven sees our love and service for him. The recognition and approval of the world is so fickle and fleeting. It is here today and gone tomorrow with each passing wind of cultural change. Our Father’s opinion and love, however, has never changed and never will. We are safe in that love and need no further approval than his when we realize that.