While watching in my mind those disciples gathered around the Lord Jesus sitting there and teaching them the features and facts of the kingdom, I was impressed how father-like He was with them. They were hearing a real explanation of the lifestyle they had lived before they met Him. It had been basically a life lived out of habit and culture. Now they were learning the reasons for all of the uniqueness of kingdom living and a life of faith. He spoke plainly about the motives behind three key things those people did. As He taught these acts of righteousness, they were familiar with: giving, praying and fasting – He dealt with the motives behind the acts. Spiritual growth and maturity now and some kind of reward in the future, make these efforts well worth while.
The reward of the Father is given to these when they give of their substance to the poor. It was not a suggestion that they do this. It was presupposed. The point the Lord was making was that this would be done between the giver and the receiver without anyone else knowing about it. For others to observe and know what is done in our giving is all the reward we would ever get. The praise of men is fleeting at best and any honor because of giving alms will soon be past. False piety and self-glorification are always a danger when giving. Making a show of what is an obligation in never an acceptable way to meet the needs of the poor.
Prayer to the Father as individuals is a private, personal matter and is to be kept that way. There is a time and place for public prayer, and there is a time and place for private prayer. There is also the attitude of prayer we are to be in at all times so we can pray without ceasing. The length of a prayer and the amount of time spent isn’t the issue in this exercise. Personal communication with the Father is the point. Reverence for God, the kingdom of God and the will of God always comes before our requests according to the model the Lord Jesus Christ gave to His disciples that day. It would be appropriate to say, “Hallowed be Thy name – on earth as it is in heaven.” And to say, “Thy kingdom come – on earth as it is in heaven.” And also to say, “Thy will be done – on earth as it is in heaven.” These things should be evident when we pray: reverence for the holiness of God; the kingdom is already here so there should be in me conduct appropriate to a citizen of the kingdom. The will of God should always be the motivating factor in the activities of my daily life. After a proper attitude before God in prayer is shown, then the requests for meeting daily needs; the forgiveness for moral debts we owe can be asked for, and the requests to not be led through the trials and testing times so deep that we are tempted to be unfaithful, can be made.
Forgiveness by the Father cannot be expected when we harbor an unforgiving spirit against others. It is inevitable that there will be those who will unfairly accuse you of something. Others may take some action that will adversely affect you. In these events that happen to us, there are certain ways we can deal with them. If something is able to be addressed, then there is a biblical protocol to follow. I am to go to him privately to deal with the contention in as private a way as possible. Hopefully that will settle the problem. If not, then we take witnesses and follow the pattern the Lord taught. There are times when things happen and nothing can be done. When that is true, then we go on with our life without making an issue over something that cannot be changed. The forgiveness we can give is an honest act in the heart to which the Lord Himself gives witness. We leave the matter there and go on with our life of faith lived before the Lord in confidence that the Father can forgive us when we sin and confess it to Him.
Honoring the Father involves giving Him the priority in every action we take. The practice of fasting is one way we can give all of our attention to the Lord and His interests. All other distractions are removed that we might connect in a special way with our heavenly Father over some matter that needs our individual attention. The whole point of this fast is our fellowship with Him, not some ostentatious activity that is displayed to others. Other people should not even know it is going on. There should be no ashes on one’s head or a long-faced appearance because of going without food. In outward appearance we should attend to our normal way of life including the way we dress our hair, our clothes and our facial expressions. Fasting is something personal between me and the Father that will restore me to fellowship with Him; strengthen my faith in Him and confidence that He will guide me in the work I am to do; and bring joy and a sense of worth to that which comes from God only.
Serving the Father is a daily occupation for those in His kingdom and family. Hoarding riches for personal use and being greedy for more, is condemned in the kingdom of God. Riches are not condemned in themselves, but the wrong use of them and the desire for them is. By their very nature they deteriorate and will ultimately all be left behind. Others will want what you have and you will become occupied with riches itself rather than the One from whom every “good and perfect gift” comes. Treasure in heaven is laid up for by the motive behind our work here on earth. Things that have eternal value that are done here, will have eternal value in time to come in heaven. So we are able to let our spiritual vision give light as to what God sees and what our service is to be like from God’s point of view. Spiritual eyesight can become clouded over. When that happens we fall into a materialistic trap and all becomes dark around us, and the light that should shine from within is darkened. Far too many unhappy Christians are around who still try to serve mammon.
The Father has made full provision for us. Therefore we do not have to worry. Worry really has bad effects on those who for some reason cannot rest on God’s promises. Worry can damage one’s health, consume our thoughts, disrupt our life and usefulness, affect how we treat others and affect our own fellowship and trust in God. To doubt God is really sin. There is a real difference between worry and legitimate, honest concern. Worry paralyzes people and may stop them from being productive. Concern moves us to action to deal with whatever is needed to rectify a situation that needs attending to. Our responsibility is to seek God’s kingdom. Then turn to God for help and become concerned for His desires and obey Him. There will always be competition for our interests and service. God’s interests need to be first in any activity; any daily routine. Laying plans for tomorrow is a good thing but worrying about tomorrow is not. Thinking ahead and trusting God for guidance takes care of worry. Worrying can actually affect our relationship with God today. Worry paralyzes; concern mobilizes.