Today in our passage of Scripture, Jesus has a go at those who do a similar thing in their spiritual lives. People whose real righteousness is not that great, but try to keep up spiritual appearances by doing spiritual looking things so that other people will think they are pretty good. And in our passage Jesus looks at three aspects of spirituality, which are good things in and of themsleves. They are: giving to the needy, prayer, and fasting. And each time Jesus has much the same thing to say about them, which is summed up in Mt. 6.1
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father."
Hmmm this is interesting, Jesus has been telling us how we ought to live - how we ought to practice our righteousness.
And now Jesus is not telling us not to practice our righteousness.
Now what Jesus is now telling us, is who we should be practicing our righteousness for, and who we shouldn’t. Jesus wants to warn us against doing righteous looking things in front of other people in order to impress them. And in Jesus’ day there were lots of people who did that. Remember Jesus told us that our righteousness needed to exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees.
Now the Scribes and the Pharisees were the spiritual gurus of the day. They wanted everyone else to know how righteous they were. How holy, how good, how close to God they were. They did this because they wanted others to think they were pretty good. They were only concerned with how they looked to others, so they concentrated on the externals, not the internals, and we’ve seen how Jesus is not just interested in the externals as He is with what goes on inside.
And as Jesus says, if we do good things just so other people will think we are spiritual or holy or religious, then we’ve already received our reward from those people, and so we won’t get any reward from God our Father. Jesus then uses three ways that the people of His day tried to look righteous before others: giving to the needy, prayer, and fasting. And the structure of each one is very similar. In each case, Jesus gives an example of how we can do righteous deeds, but do them only to win the favor of other people. And if we do them for that reason, then we receive our reward from those people, and won’t be rewarded by our Father.