Friday, June 22, 2018

Christian Secret Service

But 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” (Matthew 6:6).

In Matthew 6:1–21, Jesus gives a series of exhortations about the secret life of the believer. He contrasts true belief with Pharisaism. First, in verses 1–4, He states that our alms-giving is to be done quietly, not publicly. Second, in verses 5–15, He argues that our prayers are to be done secretly, and not openly. Third, in verse 16–18, He commands that our fasting is to be concealed, not done before men. He closes in verses 19–21 by arguing that in this way we lay up treasures in heaven, rather than on earth.

Notice that Jesus makes it plain that we are required to give alms. This means, first of all, a tithe of ten percent of our income to the church. It also means additional giving to those in need, particularly to the poor. Jesus also makes it clear that Christians are to practice fasting.

You may not agree with me, but I don’t bow my head and give thanks when I eat alone or with an unbelieving friend in public. If I am with a company of other Christians, I am happy to join in thanks, but if I am alone, I give thanks without any outward show. It seems to me that this is what Jesus requires, even though I know it goes against our common custom as evangelical Christians.

Jesus does say that our light is to shine before men, but He makes it plain that He means by this our public works (Matthew 5:14–16). The exception from this the actions of giving money, fasting, and prayer. Prayer, alms-giving, and fasting are not means of evangelism.

I ask myself why Jesus was so forceful about this matter, and I come up with two possible reasons. The first is that it is so easy for us to turn private obedience into an occasion for public praise, as did the Pharisees. Jesus seems determined to cut off this sinful tendency at the root. The second reason is that it confuses our witness. Unbelievers tend to interpret such actions as hypocrisy.

The real question here is whether or not we are faithful in secret prayer, in tithing and alms-giving, and in fasting. If you are not engaged in these things, take steps to change your life pattern today. For example, your pastor can help you discover the freedom and joy of tithing. Don’t delay to put into practice the constitution of the kingdom!