The Hypocrite’s Reward & the Disciple’s Treasure

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative concerning the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ which was written by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the sixth chapter of this New Testament book. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the second of three chapters in the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew which make up Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. In the fifth chapter of this New Testament book we find Jesus presenting unto His disciples and those who would follow Him with what has been largely and widely known as “the Beatitudes,” as well as with emphatic declarations concerning what that righteousness which exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees looks like. We cannot afford to miss and lose sight of that which is found within this passage of Scripture, for what is found within it is a powerful picture of just what that righteousness which exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, and what that righteousness which inherits the kingdom of heaven is truly like. You cannot read the latter portion of the fifth chapter and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous and powerful picture of a righteousness that is entirely and altogether different from the righteousness which the scribes and the Pharisees prided themselves on in the sight of both God and men. The words which are found in the latter portion of the fifth chapter serve as a wonderful and powerful declaration made by the Lord Jesus Christ concerning a righteousness which had been taught unto those during that generation according to the Law of Moses, according to the prophets, and even according to the traditions established by the scribes, the chief priests, the elders of the people, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the religious leaders and system of that day. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of just how incredibly important this truly is, for the words which are found here in this passage help serve as a foundation and introduction for what Jesus would go on to speak and declare in the sixth and seventh chapters.

            As you read the words which are found in the sixth chapter—you will indeed be directly confronted with the words which Jesus taught His disciples to use when praying unto the Father which was in heaven, and you will indeed be confronted with Jesus’ famous words concerning seeking first the kingdom of heaven and the righteousness of God, and all those things which we have need of, and all those things we spend so much time worrying about can and will be added unto you. What we must realize and recognize concerning this particular chapter, however, is that before Jesus even speaks and declares that we must needs seek first the kingdom of heaven and the righteousness of God, we find Jesus continuing to build upon the righteousness of the disciples and followers of Him as directly set against that of the scribes and the Pharisees. In fact, as you begin reading the sixth chapter you will find Jesus setting in comparison the religion of the scribes and the Pharisees, and the religious practices of the scribes and Pharisees directly against that of His disciples and followers. It’s actually quite intriguing and astonishing to read the words which are found in the fifth chapter of this New Testament gospel, for in the fifth chapter we find and read of the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees—that which they believed pleased God, and which should be observed and practiced by men. In the fifth chapter of this gospel narrative we find and read Jesus directly contrasting the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees which was according to the Law of Moses, according to the prophets, and even according to their own traditions with the righteousness of the kingdom which transcends outward demonstration and touches inward transformation. If we are truly honest with ourselves when reading the words which are found in the fifth chapter of this gospel narrative we must needs acknowledge and understand that the words presented before us are such that describe that righteousness which is characterized and defined by outward demonstration and has absolutely nothing to do with inner transformation of the heart and mind.

            The more I read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the fact that the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was based entirely and altogether on an outward observance of that which was commanded in the Law of Moses, and that which was commanded by the prophets without and apart from ever touching the heart and the mind. For the scribes and the Pharisees they were able to commit themselves to a righteousness which was demonstrated outwardly and externally according to some fulfillment of and adherence to the commands which were found in the Law and the prophets, and one which never transitioned beyond external appearances to their hearts and minds. For the scribes and Pharisees they were entirely and altogether content with pursuing and walking in a righteousness that pleased men and was admired by men in the midst of that generation without ever pleasing the living God who spoke unto Moses and who spoke unto the prophets. We must pause for a moment and carefully consider this, for when speaking unto His disciples and followers Jesus emphatically and boldly declared unto them that the righteousness which they possessed and pursued within themselves must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees. If the righteousness which was present within themselves did not exceed that righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees then they would in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. Stop and think about just how absolutely incredibly and challenging these words truly are, for it is with these words Jesus not only declares that there was a deficiency in the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, but the righteousness of the disciples and followers of Him was entirely and altogether different. That which Jesus was doing—pretty much from the very outset of His public ministry—was draw a dividing line in the sand between the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees which was taught unto and among men, and the righteousness of the kingdom. We must needs understand and recognize this, for if the fifth chapter directly contrasts the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees as directly set against the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven, then the opening verses of the sixth chapter directly contrasts the religion of the scribes and Pharisees with the “religion” of heaven.

            I fully realize and recognize that there would be those who would state and declare that walking with and following Jesus is not about religion but a relationship, and I wholeheartedly agree with that. I am in no way suggesting that the kingdom of heaven is manifested by, within and through any expression of religion. When I speak of the religion of the scribes and Pharisees as juxtaposed to the “religion” of the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, I am speaking about the religions practices of the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is quite remarkable and astonishing to read the words and consider the fact that in the sixth chapter Jesus directly contrasts the giving of the scribes and the Pharisees with the giving of His disciples and followers. In the sixth chapter Jesus directly contrasts the praying of the scribes and Pharisees with the praying and prayers of the disciples and followers of Himself. Moreover, it is in the sixth chapter Jesus directly contrasts and compares the fasting of the scribes and the Pharisees with the fasting of his disciples and followers. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this, for with these statements Jesus clearly sets forth and declares that the scribes and the Pharisees pray, the scribes and the Pharisees give tithes and to the poor, and the scribes and the Pharisees fast. With this being said, however, that which Jesus is speaking and declaring with these words is that this religion of the scribes and Pharisees is one that is based entirely and altogether upon outward appearances, external demonstration, and a public show and display that is put on in the sight of men. You cannot read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and not encounter and see a stage that was set—not only a stage being set in the streets, but also a stage that was being set up in the synagogues.

            WHEN STREETS BECOME A STAGE AND SYNAGOGUES BECOME A THEATER! I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found within the opening verses of the sixth chapter, and I find myself coming face to face with the fact that what Jesus was doing when speaking unto His disciples and followers was describing and declaring how the scribes and the Pharisees might have prayed, and they might have fasted, and they might have given tithes and to the poor, however, everything they did was in the sight of men to be observed by men. In the fifth chapter it was about that which the disciples and followers had heard and that which they had been taught, however, here in the sixth chapter it was not so much about what they had heard and what was taught unto and among them, but rather about that which they had observed and witnessed within that generation. The words which are presented before us in the fifth chapter describe a righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees which was a righteousness that was purely and entirely according to the Law of Moses, the prophets, and their own traditions, and yet that righteousness was nothing more than external demonstration without and apart from internal transformation. In the sixth chapter of this gospel narrative we encounter a transition within the words Jesus spoke, for Jesus would not speak of that which His disciples had heard and that which had been taught unto and among them, but rather that which they had observed. What’s more, is that within the sixth chapter we find Jesus speaking unto His disciples and followers concerning that which they observed in the streets, and that which they observed in the synagogues. In all reality that which is found within these chapters is a remarkable picture of those who pray that they might be seen and heard of men while caring absolutely nothing about being seen and heard in heaven or by the Father. That which Jesus spoke within this chapter is about fasting in the sight of men that it might be observed and known unto men that one is fasting that they might receive praise, honor and glory from men. Moreover, what we find in the sixth chapter is about giving tithes and offerings, and giving to the poor, and yet doing so in the sight of men that one might receive honor and praise from men.

            Oh dear reader, please don’t miss and please don’t lose sight of that which is found within this passage of Scripture, for while the words presented unto us in the fifth chapter describes the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, the words which are found in the sixth chapter describes the religion of the scribes and Pharisees. Not only this, but when describing the religion of the scribes and Pharisees Jesus described it as that which was done entirely and altogether for a show in the sight and presence of men. That which the scribes and Pharisees did was never for the glory, was never for the honor, and was never for the praise of the living and eternal God, but that they themselves might be the central focus. Perhaps one of the most astonishing truths surrounding the religion of the scribes and the Pharisees is that it placed them as the central figure and focus of their actions rather than the living and eternal God. Not only this, but even when they perhaps gave unto the poor the focus was not on the poor, nor the needs which were presented within and among the poor, but rather themselves. This would be demonstrated later on when Jesus would tell the parable of the publican and the Pharisee, and how the Pharisee prayed in the hearing and sight of men and boasted of all that they had done “for the Lord,” and how they thanked God that they were not like this publican and sinner. Moreover, even when Jesus sat at the treasury in the Temple of the Lord and watched as countless men and women came and gave their offerings, He would declare how a poor widow who cast in two mites had given more than each of those who had come before her who perhaps cast in more.

            WHEN RELIGION BECOMES A SHOW AND RIGHTEOUSNESS BECOMES NOTHING MORE THAN DEMONSTRATION! I can’t help but read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture and be absolutely and completely struck with the fact that when you come to the words which Jesus spoke—words which are recorded in the sixth chapter—you will find Jesus describing the religion of the scribes and Pharisees, and how they treated the corners of the streets and the synagogues themselves as stages and theaters. You cannot read the words found within these passages of Scripture and not encounter the awesome and incredible truth that for the scribes and the Pharisees they viewed the corners of the streets and the synagogues as stages to perform on and theaters to perform in. Their “religion” and their “religious practices” weren’t about pleasing the Lord and bringing glory and honor to Him, but rather it was all about themselves. It was about elevating and exalting themselves in the sight of men that they might somehow be placed on a pedestal where men and women would applaud them for their service and duty before the Lord. In all reality, these scribes and Pharisees cared absolutely nothing for, nor nothing about the praise, the glory and the honor of the Lord, and cared only about their own fame, their own name, their own glory and their own honor. In the fifth chapter Jesus not only instructed His disciples and followers concerning their righteousness and how their righteousness needed to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, but Jesus also went on to describe the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven which He came to reveal and introduce to those who would listen and pay attention. Time and time again Jesus would reference that which the disciples and followers had heard and that which they had been taught, however, Jesus was among them introducing a new righteousness—a righteousness that was not based in the physical and the natural, but a righteousness that was based on the inner transformation of the heart and the mind.

            We have great need to pay careful attention to the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for in the fifth chapter Jesus would speak to His disciples and followers concerning that which they had heard and that which they had been taught, while in the sixth chapter He spoke unto His disciples concerning that which they  witnessed and observed. What’s more, is that when we come to the sixth chapter of this New Testament gospel we almost get the sense that the scribes and Pharisees viewed the corners of the streets and the synagogues as stages and theaters with which to perform and put on their own show and display before men that they might be seen and heard. For the scribes and Pharisees their religion and their “religious practices” were about being seen and heard—the sound they made and the sight they gave—that they might be praised and honored by and among men. For the scribes and the Pharisees there was always room to put on a performance, and there was always a place to put on a show in the sight of men. It made no difference whether it was in the synagogues of that day, or in the corners of the streets, for the scribes and the Pharisees would use both as means to publicly put on a show and performance as they sought to project themselves as being holy, as being righteous, and as pleasing before and unto the Lord. What we must needs understand, however, is that at the very heart of their giving, at the very heart of their fasting, and at the very heart of their praying was a need—perhaps even an insatiable need—to be seen and heard by men. The scribes and the Pharisees were not satisfied and were not content with their giving, nor with their fasting, nor with their praying if it did not result in them receiving accolades, praise and honor from men. In all reality, I would dare say that if the scribes and Pharisees did not receive praise, glory and honor from men as a result of their “piety” and as a result of their “holiness” they were somehow discontented and would try all the more to receive praise and glory the next time.

            Do you want to know what the underlying danger is surrounding seeking the praise and glory of men—particularly and especially when you seek to put on a show and performance before them in their sight? The true and underlying danger is that even if you receive praise and honor from men as a direct result of the performance you put on it is never enough, nor is it ever satisfied. If you watch and observe Hollywood and all the actors and actresses which give themselves to performances in movies and television shows you will find that more often than not they not only do so for the fame and fortune of it all, but they also do so to receive awards for their performances. Awards such as the Oscars, Grammys, Tony’s and the like are in and of themselves achievements for performances rendered, however, there is always this underlying gnawing and nagging to do more, to be better, and to achieve more. If there is one thing we must realize and understand concerning fame and fortune it’s that neither are ever satisfied. What’s more, is that success is in and of itself never satisfied, for more of than not the greater success you have the more you want to achieve and the more you want to succeed and excel in life. I am absolutely and completely convinced that this was the same thing of the scribes and Pharisees, for the more praise and the more honor they received from and among men as a direct result of their “performances” and “shows” in the streets and in the synagogues, the more praise and the more honor they received. In fact, I would dare say that the scribes and the Pharisees were never satisfied with the degree and measure of fame, status, prestige, praise and honor they received from among men, and they always sought to do more that they might receive more praise, more honor, more glory and more accolades from those before and all around them. It is in the fifth chapter of this gospel narrative we find ourselves coming face to face with the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees which focused entirely and altogether on outward appearances and actions, while in the sixth chapter we encounter the religion of the scribes and Pharisees, which was also entirely based on the outward and external. It is with this in mind I now invite you to consider the words which are found in the opening verses of this sixth chapter concerning the religion of the scribes and Pharisees, and that which they do that they might receive praise, honor and glory from among men:

            “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:1-4).

            “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him” (Matthew 6:5-8).

            “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:16-18).

            SEEN OF MEN, IGNORED BY THE FATHER! SEEN OF MEN, UNSEEN BY THE FATHER! HEARD OF MEN, IGNORED BY THE FATHER! HEARD OF MEN, UNHEARD BY THE FATHER! The more you read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture the more you will find a clear and present contrast which exists between that which is done in the sight of men to be seen of men and that which is done in secret away and hidden from men. There is a vast difference found within these portions of Scripture between that which the scribes and Pharisees did in the sight of men that they might be seen of them, and that which is done in secret away from watching eyes and away from listening ears. In all reality, that which we find presented before us within this passage is a powerful picture of the disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ who are to engage themselves in the secret place where they are not only seen by the Father, but where they also please the Father. One of the thoughts I can’t help but think about when reading these passages of Scripture is how many times we might very well look for the Father in the open and public places, and yet that place which He is found is in the secret, in the private and in the hidden place. The scribes and the Pharisees did all their giving, all their praying, and all their fasting in the public arena and in the public realm thinking and believing that it was there where it truly mattered, and yet they failed and neglected to recognize and understand that the only thing they were succeeding in doing was receiving praise, glory, honor and rewards of men without having anything of the Father in heaven. I find myself absolutely and incredibly in awe of the words which are presented before us in this passage of Scripture, for the words before us are essentially one of the first recorded indictments of Jesus against the scribes and the Pharisees. Within the fifth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find Jesus indicting the righteousness of the Pharisees—a righteousness that is steeped in outward demonstration and external manifestation and has absolutely nothing to do with internal transformation of the heart and mind. It is in the fifth chapter of the gospel narrative we are brought face to face with Jesus declaring unto His audience and listeners that their righteousness needed to exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees or they would not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

            As you begin reading with and from the opening verse of the sixth chapter you will encounter and come face to face with Jesus warning and cautioning His disciples and followers that they do not their alms before men—and not only not doing them before men, but doing them before men to be seen of them. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to declare of those who did their alms before men to be seen of them that they had no reward of their Father which was in heaven. Jesus would then transition to speaking unto His disciples and followers and would instruct them to not sound a trumpet before them as the hypocrites did in the synagogues and in the streets that they might have glory of and glory among men. That which the disciples and followers of Jesus were to do was to not let their left hand know what their right hand did that their alms might be in secret. It would be there in the secret where the Father which dwells in, which abides in, and which sees in secret would Himself reward His disciples. It is actually quite interesting to read these words and see a clear and present contrast between the synagogues and the streets and the secret, for the disciples and followers of Jesus ought not to be those who did their alms in the synagogues and in the streets that they might be seen of men. The disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ ought not to do their alms in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, nor were they to sound a trumpet before them as the hypocrites did. When Jesus spoke these words unto His disciples and followers He was warning and speaking unto them concerning unto them concerning the practices of the hypocrites—the scribes and the Pharisees among them—who did all their righteousness, who did all their religion in the sight of men that they might be seen and heard of them.

            The more I think about and the more I consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that when Jesus spoke unto His disciples and followers He was warning them of this need to be seen and heard among men—and not only their need to be seen and heard among men, but their need to perform in the sight and presence of men. Jesus described those who performed their alms in the sight of men as hypocrites, for they in all reality cared absolutely nothing for the honor, the pleasure, the delight, the desire and the glory of the living God and Father in heaven, but only for their own honor, their own name, their own praise, and their own glory unto, before and among men. It is actually quite remarkable to think about and consider the fact that Jesus described those who did their alms before and in the sight of men to be seen of them as hypocrites—those who gave the appearance of one thing, and yet the ultimate reality was entirely and altogether different from what was projected before and in the sight of others. We must needs recognize and understand this, for the word which Jesus used to describe those who performed and those who put on a show was “hypocrite,” thus suggesting that these individuals projected one reality while the truth was entirely and altogether different. Jesus used the word “hypocrite” to describe those who continually and regularly sought to put on a show and put on a performance before and in the sight of others that they might be seen and heard of them without at all being seen and heard of the Father in heaven. SEEN IN SECRET WHILE BEING IGNORED IN THE OPEN! SEEN IN PRIVATE WHILE BEING IGNORED IN PRIVATE! Oh the more I read these words the more I am confronted with the fact that these individuals whom Jesus referred to as hypocrites did all of their religious duties and practices in the sight of men and in open and public places that they might be seen and heard of men, and yet despite their best efforts to be seen and heard of men they were largely ignored and disregarded in heaven. Essentially that which Jesus was speaking unto His disciples was not to be moved, nor to pay any attention to the actions of these hypocrites who sought to put on a show in public places that they might be seen of men.

            In the sixth chapter of this New Testament gospel we find Jesus the Christ presenting unto His disciples and followers a powerful picture of those who sought to perform their religion in public places and public spaces that they might appear before men. As a direct result of them being seen and heard by men these individuals would be largely and entirely ignored by the Father in heaven, and you would think that this wasn’t the case. You would think that doing your good deeds in public, and doing your alms in the open, and praying loudly in the streets and in the synagogues would be pleasing in the sight of the Father, and yet the truth of the matter is that Jesus not only declared that those who did such things have already received their reward here on the earth, but also that they were largely ignored in heaven. I find it absolutely incredible that immediately after Jesus spoke unto His disciples and followers concerning these hypocrites who did their alms, and did their praying, and did their giving in the sight of men to be seen of men, and how He declared unto them that they had their reward here on the earth, He would go on to instruct His disciples to lay not up for themselves treasures here on the earth where thieves can steal and break in, and where moth and rust can destroy. It is important that we recognize and understand these words which were spoken by Jesus, for these words spoken by Him call and draw our attention to the fact that not only are we not to seek any type of reward here upon this earth, but we are at the same time to lay up for ourselves treasure in heaven. Perhaps one of the greatest truths that surrounds Jesus’ statements concerning these hypocrites who did their alms in the streets and the synagogues, and who prayed in the streets and the synagogues, and who fasted to be seen of men is that at the heart of it they were storing up for themselves treasure and reward here upon the earth while completely and utterly neglecting any type of treasure and reward in heaven. They engaged themselves in their giving, in their fasting and their praying that they might receive their praise and honor among men—and not only that they would receive their praise and honor among men, but also that they might receive their reward here upon the earth rather than in heaven.

            REWARD AND TREASURE! The more I read the words which are presented before us within this passage of Scripture the more I can’t help but be absolutely captivated with Jesus’ words concerning the hypocrites reward which is received here upon the earth as juxtaposed with the treasure which His disciples and followers were instructed to store up for themselves in heaven. If you begin reading with and from the nineteenth verse of this sixth chapter you will find the Lord Jesus expressing unto His disciples and followers—particularly and especially after speaking unto them concerning the hypocrite’s reward in heaven—that they ought not to lay up for themselves treasures here on the earth, but rather lay up for themselves in heaven. THE HYPOCRITE’S REWARD AND THE DISCIPLE’S TREASURE! What’s even more intriguing about this is when you consider the apparent disparity between the language which Jesus used to describe these two realities, for when speaking about that which the hypocrites received here upon the earth Jesus used the word “reward.” Three separate times when speaking about the performance and show which these hypocrites put on within the earth Jesus used the word “reward” and declared how they had received their reward in full while here upon the earth. When, however, Jesus spoke concerning that which was found in heaven He chose to use the word “treasure.” Oh I am absolutely and completely convinced there is a vast difference between the “rewards” we might receive—or which we might think we receive—here upon the earth, and the treasure which we have in heaven. What’s more, is the question I can’t help but ask myself is which are we living for in this life? Are we living for the rewards which are temporal and natural in this life and in the here and now, or are we living for the treasure which is found in heaven? There is this clear and present dichotomy and disparity that exists within the sixth chapter between the hypocrite’s reward and that which they receive here in this life, and that which the disciples and followers of Jesus—not only store up for themselves in heaven, but also receive in heaven. Within this particular passage of Scripture we find Jesus instructing His disciples and followers to lay not up for themselves treasures upon earth where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal, but to instead lay up for themselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust corrupt, and where thieves do not break in and steal. Moreover, Jesus goes on to declare that where your treasure is—regardless of whether your treasure is here on this earth or stored up in heaven—there also will your heart be. It is with this in mind I invite you to pause for a moment and consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the epistle written unto the Ephesian saints beginning with the third verse of the first chapter:

            “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:3-14).

            The more I think about the words which are found within this passage of Scripture the more I can’t help but be absolutely struck with the fact that when speaking unto His disciples and those who would follow Him Jesus spoke of the hypocrite’s reward which was received here on the earth—that which centered upon the praise, the honor and the glory of men. What we must needs recognize and understand concerning this reward of the hypocrite is that it has absolutely nothing to do with anything that is given and received in heaven, and touches only that which is earthly, that which is natural, and that which is temporal. What’s more, is that for the hypocrite—their greatest pursuit and their greatest delight in this life is receiving praise, honor and glory from men, and they care absolutely nothing about the praise, the honor and the glory being deflected upon the living and eternal God. Everything these hypocrites do is for show and to be seen and heard of men, and this is the entire motivation surrounding that which they do. Not only this, but we must needs realize and understand that the hypocrite doesn’t just put on their performance in the church building, but they also put on their show and performance in the streets and in those places outside the four walls of the building. The hypocrite seeks to pursue the praise, the glory and the honor from men rather than anything from the Lord, and in fact they receive nothing from the Lord because they can receive nothing from Him. Think about it for a minute—the hypocrite can receive absolutely nothing from the Lord because they receive everything they need and everything they want from men in this life. The hypocrite—unless they repent before the Lord—receive absolutely nothing from the Lord, and in all reality the Lord has nothing to offer them because they have already received what matters most to them in this life. Pause for a moment and think about the fact that there are men and women whose sole concern, whose sole pursuit and sole desire is to receive from men within and upon the earth, and as a direct result of this they are unable to receive anything from the Lord. Despite all the Lord has to offer unto those who diligently seek Him, and those who diligently pursue Him through such practices as fasting, as giving and prayer, the hypocrites receive absolutely nothing from the Lord, nor does the Lord even offer unto them.

            As I sit here and think about this particular idea I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the resurrected, ascended and exalted Christ spoke unto one of the seven churches. If you read the third chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ and begin reading with and from the fourteenth verse you will find the final of the seven letters which were sent unto the churches in Asia. It was this letter which was sent unto the church of the Laodiceans, and it was this letter which carries with it perhaps one of Christ’s must stunning rebukes and indictments. Upon reading the words found in the third chapter of this book you will find Jesus declaring unto this church that He knows their works and that they were neither hot nor cold. Because they were neither hot nor cold, and because they were instead lukewarm—Jesus was going to spew them out of His mouth. It is what we find and what we read next in this particular portion of Scripture that calls and draws our attention to what I firmly believe is linked to the hypocrite’s reward and their inability to receive anything from the Lord. Beginning to read with the seventeenth verse you will find Christ speaking the following words to the church of the Laodiceans:

            “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any many hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:17-20).

            BECAUSE THOU SAYEST, I AM RICH, AND INCREASED WITH GOODS, AND HAVE NEED OF NOTHING! Oh please do not miss and lose sight of the tremendous impact of these words—particularly and especially when you think about and consider the hypocrite’s reward as mentioned by the Lord Jesus Christ. Think about and consider just how incredible these words truly are, for there were those within this church who believed that they were rich, and increased in goods and had need of nothing, and yet they didn’t know that they were wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind and naked. IN all reality, I would dare say that the same words which Jesus spoke unto the church of the Laodiceans are the same words which could have been spoken concerning the hypocrites. What’s more, is that I am convinced that the words which Jesus spoke concerning and unto the church of the Laodiceans can directly apply to the scribes and the Pharisees and the hypocrites which He spoke about in the Sermon on the Mount. The more I read the words which are found in the sixth chapter the more I can’t help but see these whom Jesus referred to as “hypocrites” as being those who not only could not receive anything from the Lord, but also as those who had already received everything they needed in this life. I can’t help but see those whom Jesus referred to as “hypocrites” as being those whom were referred to in the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ as saying and speaking within their hearts that they are rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing. What makes the words which Jesus spoke unto the church of the Laodiceans so damning, so indicting, and so critical is when you think about just how deceived they actually were. Here they were thinking and believing they were rich, increased with goods, and had need of nothing, and they had absolutely no idea they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. What I find so absolutely astounding about this is when you think about and consider the fact that Jesus didn’t declare that they ignored the fact that they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked, but that they didn’t know and perhaps weren’t even aware of their true spiritual state. Pause for a moment and think about how tragic that actually is when you can be so deceived and so blind that you don’t know what your true spiritual state actually is.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found within this passage of Scripture and I am absolutely and completely captivated with the fact that these whom Jesus referred to as “hypocrites” not only received their reward here in this life—perhaps even everything they needed, wanted and desired—but they also had absolutely no clue they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. In the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find Jesus speaking about the garments which the scribes and Pharisees wore, and even that which they added to those garments to make themselves appear more holy and pious than others, and I can’t help but think about and consider about these individuals and how they were perhaps arrayed in all of these fancy garments and fancy garments, and robes, and the like, and yet they had absolutely no idea they were actually naked in the sight of God. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that you might be able to be clothed in the natural and physical realm, and even be clothed in the sight and eyes of others, and yet be completely and utterly naked in the sight of God. Moreover, it is possible to think you’re rich and increased in goods—perhaps even legitimately be rich and increased in goods—in the natural and physical realm, and yet be absolutely and utterly ignorant of the fact that you are actually poor. Not only this, but what we find in the midst of the words which Jesus spoke unto the church of the Laodiceans is that they did not know they were blind, and Christ invited and instructed them to get for themselves eye salve that they might see. Oh how I can’t help but see a strong and powerful connection between the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel according to Matthew, the words which are found in the third chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, and the words which are found in the sixth chapter present us with a powerful indictment—not only against the scribes and the Pharisees during those days, but also those whom Jesus would refer to on three separate occasions as “hypocrites.”

            Perhaps one of the most remarkable and astounding truths that surrounds the words found in the sixth chapter of this gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew is that Jesus not only compared and contrasted His disciples and followers from those whom He referred to as “hypocrites,” but Jesus also appeared to contrast the reward of the hypocrites here in this life and on the earth with the treasure of the disciples which was in heaven. What’s more, is that if you read these verses carefully you will see that Jesus contrasted the reward of the hypocrites which was found in this life in the sight of men, and the reward of the disciple and follower of Him which was not only found in heaven, but was also given by the Father who sees in secret. What I so appreciate and value when reading these words is the clear and present contrast between that which was done in the spotlight and that which was done in full view of men and women. When Jesus spoke of giving, when Jesus spoke of fasting, and when Jesus spoke of praying He instructed His disciples and followers not to sound a trumpet, and not to make this elaborate presentation of their prayers, their fasting and their giving that they might be seen of men—and not only seen of men, but also praised and adored by men. We must needs pay close and careful attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, for the words which we see before us present us with a clear and present contrast between those who give that they might be seen of men—and even that they might receive something in return—those who pray that they might be seen and heard of men, and those who fast and seek to show off and demonstrate their fasting. HAVE GLORY! BE SEEN! APPEAR UNTO MEN! Please don’t miss the awesome and incredible importance of these words and phrases, for these words present us with a clear and present indictment against those whom Jesus referred to as “hypocrites” as these individuals would be those did their “service” to and their “worship” of God before and in the sight of men to be seen, to give a particular appearance, and to receive glory among men.

            As I read these words—particularly and especially the words which Jesus spoke concerning prayer—I find it truly captivating to read how Jesus instructed His disciples and followers to enter into their closet, to shut the door behind them, and to pray to their Father which is in secret. Not only this, but you will find Jesus declaring of the Father that not only is He present in the secret, but so also does He see in the secret place. When the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ were to pray, they were to pray in secret, and they were to pray purposefully, deliberately and intentionally and not use vain repetitions and much speaking. It is this concept of not using vain repetitions and much speaking when praying, for Jesus would go on to describe and declare that our Father who is present in and sees in the secret knows what we have need of before we even ask Him. How absolutely incredible it is to think about and consider the awesome and powerful truth that when Jesus spoke of praying, He instructed us to enter into our closets and shut the door behind us, declared unto us that our Father knows exactly what we have need of before we even ask Him, and then gave us a model for which to pray when we come and appear before the Father. “The Lord’s Prayer” as it has commonly been referred to has become one of the benchmarks and landmarks of Christian prayer and liturgy as men and women throughout the centuries have prayed this prayer before the Lord their God. In fact, in the Catholic religion one of the sacraments is “The Lord’s Prayer,” and priests in confession will instruct men and women to say a certain number of what they call “Our Father’s.” This would be in addition to “Hail Mary’s,” and other sacraments which they attribute to holiness, to repentance, to forgiveness, to grace, to mercy, and to piety before and in the sight of the living God. Despite how our Lord’s prayer has been portrayed and implemented within Catholicism it is absolutely imperative and necessary we recognize and understand the tremendous depth of it—and not only the tremendous depth of it, but also how absolutely critical and vital it truly is.

            If you were to take the entire sixth chapter and summarize it you would undoubtedly summarize it as a contrast between the hypocrite’s reward here in this life and the treasure of the righteous and the disciple and follower of Jesus Christ in heaven. As you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find that Jesus presents us with three distinct practices and disciplines which should be found in the heart of every disciple and follower of Him—namely, giving, fasting and praying. Concerning prayer we must needs understand and recognize that two of the greatest truths surrounding prayer is not only the knowledge that our Father knows what we have need of before we ask Him, but also the willingness to forgive those who have sinned and trespassed against us. If you take the time to read the truly study the words which are found in the Lord’s prayer—and not only the words which are found in the Lord’s prayer, but also the words surrounding that prayer—you will find that two of the central themes is not only our own forgiveness by the Father, but also its intrinsic link and connection with our forgiving others for the sins and trespasses which have been committed against us. IN all reality, the words which are found in the Lord’s prayer not only contain a request for personal forgiveness from the Lord, but also a personal responsibility of forgiveness. Oh dear reader—it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that when it comes to forgiveness—not only is there a personal request for forgiveness as we ask the Lord to forgive us of our sins and trespasses, but there is also a personal responsibility to forgive as we are willing to forgive those who have sinned and trespassed against us. What’s more, is that concerning forgiveness Jesus would also go on to declare that if we forgive men their trespasses against us our heavenly Father will forgive the trespasses we have committed against Him. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to present the flip side of that reality, for He would declare that if we were unwilling to forgive others of their trespasses against us, then our heavenly Father in heaven will not forgive us our trespasses.

            THE PERSONAL REQUEST FOR FORGIVENESS, THE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF FORGIVENESS! Oh dear brother, oh dear sister—if you want to truly understand what forgiveness is within your heart and life you must recognize and understand the intrinsic link and connection between your desire to be forgiven by the Lord of your trespasses and your willingness to forgive others of their trespasses. What’s more, is that I would dare say that forgiveness must needs beget forgiveness. Did you catch that? Please don’t miss and lose the tremendous truth of that statement, forgiveness has always and must always beget forgiveness. Just as surely as we have been forgiven of the Lord our trespasses which have been committed against Him, so also must we forgive others of the trespasses which they have committed against us. Just as we have been forgiven the trespasses we have committed against others, so also we must forgive the trespasses which have been committed against us. As we will see later in this gospel narrative—not only are we to forgive our brother, but we are to forgive them seventy times seven. IN other words there ought not to be any limits nor any limitations to our forgiveness, for we must be willing to forgive those who have trespassed against us. It is absolutely necessary and critical that we recognize and understand just how incredibly important forgiveness truly is within our hearts, for we dare not expect our Father which is in heaven to forgive us our sins and trespasses if we are unwilling to forgive others their trespasses which they have committed against us. Oh how easy it is to ask and request forgiveness of the Father which is in heaven and yet be entirely and altogether unwilling to offer and extend that forgiveness unto those who have sinned and trespassed against us. In fact, I would dare say it is easier to accept forgiveness from the Father in heaven than it is to extend forgiveness unto others who have sinned and trespassed against us.

            What makes the words which are found within the sixth chapter so incredibly unique and powerful is when you consider them in light of the words which are found in the previous chapter. It is in the fifth chapter where Jesus instructs to not resist evil, and if one would smite us on the one cheek we were to offer and turn unto them our other cheek. Jesus would go on to instruct and invite His disciples and followers to offer their cloak to those who would sue them at the law and take their coat, as well as going the extra mile with those who asked of them to go one mile. Not only this, but Jesus would also instruct and invite His disciples and followers to bless those who cursed them, to do good to those who hated them, and to pray for those who persecuted and despitefully used them. Even with all of this being said we must needs realize and understand that Jesus wasn’t done with these types of instructions and invitations, for earlier on He would instruct us to rejoice and be exceeding glad when men revile us, when men persecute us, and when men shall say all manner of evil against us for His sake. Oh please don’t miss just how incredibly important these words truly are, for these words are intrinsically connected to the words which are found in the sixth chapter, for not only in the prayer our Lord taught His disciples to prayer unto the Father which is in heaven, but also in His statement after Jesus instructed us to forgive those who have trespassed against us. Perhaps that which is the most challenging and difficult to bear when considering the words which Jesus spoke concerning forgiveness is that He never defined, nor did He ever reveal what the trespasses were. Nowhere in the Lord’s prayer, nor even in the words He spoke after will you find Jesus defining what those trespasses were which were committed against us, and thus He leaves it open-ended to encompass a multitude of trespasses—perhaps even a multitude of evil as the apostle Paul wrote about when speaking of love. Oh I would dare say that not only does love cover a multitude of evil, but so also forgiveness covers a multitude of trespasses. With this being said, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that nowhere in Scripture were we given the right, nor the permission to pick and choose which transgressions and which trespasses we are willing to forgive and which ones we were going to hold against others.

            LIVE YOUR LIFE FORGIVEN AND FORGIVING! LIVE YOUR LIFE FREE AND ABSENT FROM GRUDGES! LIVE YOUR LIFE FREE AND ABSENT FROM OFFENSES! LIVE YOUR LIFE FREE AND ABSENT FROM BITTERNESS! LIVE YOUR LIFE FREE AND ABSENT OF RESENTMENT! Oh as I am writing these words I can’t help but think about how absolutely incredible and tremendous it would be to live my life completely and utterly absent any grudges and offenses. Pause for a moment and think about what your life would be like if you could live completely and utterly free from any type of grudge and any type of offense which you might be tempted to hold within your heart. Stop and think about what your life would be like if you were not only forgiven by your Father which was in heaven, but also were able to forgive others the trespasses they committed against you. Not only this, but just think about what your life would indeed be like if you could literally forgive anyone for anything they committed against you. Permit yourself to think about what your life would be like if there was no limit, nor any boundary to your measure and degree of forgiveness, and if you were able to forgive anyone of anything they have committed against you. Permit me to be so bold right now and ask you whether or not you believe you are able to forgive anyone of anything they have committed against you. Do you believe you are able to have unspeakable evils and atrocities committed against you, and yet you are able to forgive each and every trespass and sin which was committed against you? Do you think for one moment that others can commit great offenses against you—perhaps even greatly wrong you—and you are able to forgive them? Do you believe you have it within your heart to be able to forgive anyone of anything they have committed against you—regardless of how severe and how overwhelming it might be within your life? Do you believe that anyone could do anything to you, and instead of harboring a grudge and giving yourself to bitterness you can forgive, and release, and truly let go? Do you have it within you, and are you spiritually mature enough to forgive anyone of anything they have committed against you—perhaps even knowing they might commit the very same thing against you again?

            As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find perhaps the greatest challenge in the sixth chapter the challenge to accept responsibility placed within and upon us to forgive others for the trespasses which have been committed against us. It is incredibly strong language Jesus spoke when He declared that if we are unwilling to forgive others of the trespasses they have committed our Father which is in heaven will not forgive us. There is not a doubt in my mind that one of the greatest challenges we face within our lives is the challenge to forgive others of the trespasses they have committed against us. What’s more, is that we must possess the courage, the maturity, the strength and the love within our hearts to be able to forgive anyone of any wrong they might have committed against us. We must needs possess the spiritual fortitude to be able to take any wrong that might be committed against us—and not only patiently endure under it, but also forgive those who have wronged us. We dare not and must not forget the words Jesus taught in the prayer found in this passage, for Jesus taught us to ask the Father to forgive us as we also in turn forgave others. Oh there is a great and powerful need within my heart and life to be able to bear up and accept wrong and being wronged, and to forgive others for the wrong they have committed against us. It is truly something worth noting and pointing out that it isn’t enough to ask the Father which is in heaven to forgive us if we in turn are not willing to forgive others of the trespasses they have committed against us. In all reality, it’s almost as if we dare not and must not expect our Father which is in heaven to forgive us if we in turn aren’t willing to forgive others. We must not think and believe for one single moment that our Father can and will forgive us if we ourselves aren’t willing to forgive others of the trespasses which have been committed against us. Oh that we would be a people who would be completely free within our hearts and our spirits to be able to accept any wrong which has been committed against us, to bear up under it, to patiently endure is, and to forgive those who have sinned and trespassed against us.

Oh how truly awesome and powerful it is to live our lives as those who are willing to forgive anyone of any thing and any wrong they have committed against us. Oh how absolutely wonderful and powerful it is to be able to live our lives completely free and delivered from bitterness, offense, resentment, anger, malice, and the like. What’s more, is that it’s actually worth noting that in this same Sermon Jesus spoke of having anger in our heart toward our brother without a cause, and how we can be entirely and altogether innocent of committing the actual act of murder, and yet still be guilty of the root and underlying cause of murder as a direct result of anger within our hearts. It is absolutely necessary we understand when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture that anger in our heart, being cursed by others, being persecuted, being reviled, and the like are intrinsically connected. What’s more is that in the fifth chapter Jesus instructs us to accept the responsibility of going unto our brother who we know has ought against us and be reconciled to them, while in the sixth chapter Jesus speaks to us of forgiving others of their trespasses against us. How truly unique and astonishing it is to read the words of Jesus and not only discover that we have been called to forgive others of their trespasses against us, but we have also been called to be reconciled to those who might very well have ought against us. In fact, we are instructed to leave our gift at the altar and go and be reconciled to that brother who has ought against us, and then coming back unto our gift and to the altar and present it to the Lord. THE FORGIVENESS OF GOD AND THE GIFT AT THE ALTAR! Oh we must realize and acknowledge that we as the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ have been called to a life and lifestyle of forgiveness and reconciliation, and that we are to live our lives completely and totally free from all anger, all malice, all offense, all resentment, all bitterness, all hostility and all animosity which we might hold and harbor against others. Let us this day make a conscious and deliberate decision to not only live lives of forgiveness, but also lives of reconciliation before and in the sight of the living and eternal Father which is in heaven, and before the Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal and Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

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