January 6: Matthew 6
Genesis 6; Matthew 6; Ezra 6; Acts 6
I once had a conversation with a woman who was going through unexpected trials in her marriage. But she was sticking to her vows, despite it being harder than she imagined it could be. Grieving people cannot hear much, but I tried to encourage her with brief words, with the hope that for every step she walked by faith and endured, God would remember and reward her in the end. But sadly she replied, “Of course we know we shouldn’t live for reward.” And that was that.
It saddened me that she would not take up for herself the grace that the Lord Jesus assumes here, in Matthew 6. It may surprise you to see that Jesus uses the word “reward” seven times. He assumes something crucial about human nature: we all live for reward. Not a matter of whether we do, but by whose hand, from what Giver of Reward? Our own hands? Or God’s? From the applause of man? Or that of God?
It seems very likely to me that the writer to the Hebrews (Paul, in my opinion) was directly informed by this chapter when he wrote in Hebrews 11:6 - that faith is comprised of believing not one but two things. That
God exists, and
He rewards those who seek Him.
So if it’s clear that all humanity lives to seek reward, and if God is a rewarding God, then why do some live as though neither reality is true? The best explanation seems to be not reading our Bibles closely, because of an “overrealized piety.” This kind of piety says that God Himself should be enough for us, and that the Christian life involves a renunciation of all enjoyments. But the reality from Scripture is that God reveals Himself in His rewards. We wouldn’t know the God that’s actually there without experiencing and hoping in His rewards.
Thus, for Jesus, living for God and living for His reward is the same thing, because He is a rewarding God. To reverse this: whoever or whatever is the giver of the highest and best reward in your life is your functional g/God. When you pray in public, if you are more concerned about what people think of your prayer (5), then it turns out you are praying to people, even while purportedly praying to God. People are your actual god, in that moment.
The solution is to live for the reward of God, which is another way of saying (33),
“. . . seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness . . .”
Because, if we do,
“ . . . all these things will be added to you.”