…so it’s time to get ready! I thought that I should write some posts for the occasion this year, and what better way to get started than a short review of Matthew chapter 6?
Oh yes, that’s right, this is the very heart of the Sermon on the Mount. What’s that you say – what does that have to do with getting ready for Christmas? Oh my, I can see that I should have started this sooner! Why the Sermon on the Mount has everything to do with Christmas, especially Matthew Six!
No, really it does… you’ll see.
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Have you ever read the story of Jesus’ birth in Luke 2 and thought there was something ‘funny’ going on? Think about it: The heir to the throne of David was born of humble parents, Joseph and Mary, only Joseph wasn’t the father, and they weren’t exactly married. They were summoned to Bethlehem by a proclamation of a pagan king far away, and were not only poor, but they couldn’t get a room anywhere and had to stay in a barn, where Mary gave birth to a son. A bunch of shepherds came to pay their respects, and then a group of foreign noblemen came by, and when the local “king” found out about all of this, he had all of the little boys in town murdered in a vain attempt to kill this particular child. Be honest; this is an odd little story that we tell each December!
That child grew up and spoke the words that I have included above from Matthew, and these words are pretty strange as well. We are being told to help the poor and needy in secret. We aren’t to do this publically, not to seek credit for doing good; we are to do good quietly. Who does that?
Have you ever been to a charity fundraiser? Normally there is a big splash in the press and a bunch of people all dressed up in their best finery are introduced and applauded under bright spotlights; often they are thanked by local dignitaries, and sometimes they receive glitzy awards for all of their work. Surely Jesus knew how this sort of thing was supposed to be done!
It seems that Jesus didn’t care how the world does things.
His teaching tells us that if we do good to impress men and gain press coverage, then that praise and publicity is our reward, but when we do it simply to help others and give glory to God, then we will receive praise and thanks from God, and He seems to be saying that this is a better outcome.
So let’s see what happens if we put these two things together, the story of His birth, and His teaching in the beginning of this chapter. On the one hand, we have a king born in a barn to a poor young mother, and a Father who just happens to be God. Oh God announced the birth, make no mistake, but He announced it not to the press or to the local luminaries, but to a group of lowly shepherds who were spending the night out in the open keeping watch over a bunch of dumb and smelly sheep.
On the other hand, Jesus is teaching us not to do good things to impress people, but to do them just because they are right.
Come to think of it, I suspect that we can sum this all up in one short statement:
Jesus was born to show us what it means to be humble.
It would seem that His humility gives us quite a contrast to the ways of the world around us.