“Beware of practising your righteousness before others…for then you will have no reward…” How do we hear these words? How do we interpret them? Like a warning? Like a threat?
At times perhaps these intentions apply. But consider the context of these verses within Jesus’ sermon, of Jesus’ audience, of who Jesus is, and what He is doing on that mountainside. We may discover Jesus words to be less about communicating, “Thou shalt not” and much more about sharing His Father’s joy, when His children are able to give, without expecting something in return--trusting Him for what we need.
As usual, Jesus’ words take us beyond what we do, or don’t do, to the question of what steers our hearts. This series of messages takes up only a few chapters in the New Testament, but reveals so much about what Jesus and his father really care about. Here are secrets about who God is and about who we can be if we follow Him. The Sermon on the Mount is very much like relaxing with Jesus at a remote cabin, and getting to hear what we otherwise might not.
Jesus has gone up the mountainside to get to a better vantage point for speaking, perhaps to get away from the larger crowds. His closest disciples are gathered around Him. He is the Son of God, the one who had helped his Father create the world and the people in it. Now the world is so big that He can travel openly without being recognized. Anonymous for thirty years, mainly observing, Jesus now amazes people with His knowledge, authority and power. This especially amazing since many see Him as “the new guy”. He embraces the anonymity. Why? For his father’s will to be accomplished? Because He doesn’t need the recognition?
In these verses, Jesus tells of the public reward our Father will give us if we learn to give to others in secret. But I wonder if the greater reward isn’t discovering and learning to live with the humility and trust that Jesus demonstrates.
How wonderful it is, to be brought into the knowledge and intimacy Jesus shares with His Father and with the Holy Spirit, as family, having our needs for love, acceptance and recognition met by Him.
“Blessed are those who can give without remembering, and take without forgetting.”
- Princess Elizabeth Asquith Bibesco