All The Reward They Will Ever Get

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Matthew 6:1-18

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

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“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

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“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

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16 “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

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Jesus used “the hypocrites” as a counter-example in the very important point He was making to His listeners.  Jesus could possibly have been referring to some kind of generic hypocrites, but several verses indicate that he was specifically referring to the narcissistic Pharisees.  He directly called them hypocrites 9 times in the book of Matthew.

The Pharisees were using religious disciplines as a tool to exalt themselves.  As tools of their self-glory, the specific disciplines or self-sacrifices they were practicing were not really their point – if it wasn’t one of these disciplines they would have chosen something else as their means for self-exaltation.

Paul later confirmed in I Corinthians 13 that even doing these things to the extreme, if not done out of love (genuine self-giving vs self-exaltation) would have no “profit” (ie – eternal reward) whatsoever.

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1 Corinthians 13:3

And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

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Jesus was not at all discouraging these spiritual practices of honoring God – by saying “when you do it” He was actually anticipating them to be practiced.  But He wanted the spiritual disciplines to count for something of real (and eternal) value by making sure that people understood that “how” and “why” they did them was as important as the disciplines themselves.  Jesus was at the same time, however, exposing the fact that the self-exalting Pharisees were using those disciplines meant to honor God as a means of honoring themselves and not God.  While He was rebuking them for their self-exaltation, he was at the same time supporting the spiritual disciplines, with added instructions on how to do it properly.

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We can often see others seeking self-exaltation and recognition through some form of spiritual service.   While it is helpful to recognize this in others as a “cautionary tale” for ourselves, we must also recognize and deal with the log in our own eye, and make sure our own motives are for His glory and not our own.

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To better understand this blog, please see Putting Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism Into Perspective

 

 

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