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Matthew 6: 5

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

2 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. 3 But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

5 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.

I think this is a fascinating study and I hope you are enjoying it and really thinking through it. Imagine sitting with Jesus when He began to teach on righteousness. Wouldn’t you be curious to discover his ideas on what constitutes righteousness? What would your reaction have been when he began to discuss a relationship between practicing righteousness and being rewarded by God. Would that have made you uncomfortable, as it did me. As you sat there, anticipating what Jesus would say next, what thoughts were racing through your mind?

We think of righteousness as holiness. However they are not the same. In our skewed mindset, the last thing most of us would expect Jesus characterize as a practice of righteousness would be donating money. Money is dirty, right? And we certainly think it is profane for people to suggest we give away our money. It’s not so dirty when it’s in our hands but it certainly takes on a vile stench when someone suggests we give it away. Further, to link righteousness with filthy lucre is insane, right?

Well, we should all feel a bit more comfortable today because Jesus’ second point regarding practicing righteousness was on prayer. He said that some people make pretty, public prayers just so they can be seen as spiritual. He said they lose their reward. Ooops! There goes our holiness meter again. Doesn’t Jesus know that it is sacrilegious for him to suggest that our Father will reward us for praying? I mean, isn’t that kind of repugnant to our way of thinking?

Interestingly, that is Jesus’ whole point in this New Testament teachings. His ways are not our ways. He came painting a different spiritual landscape. Almost everything he said ruffled peoples’ feathers. That much has not changed.

We are going to have one more devotion on this subject before we move on. In that one, we will learn even more about the reality of righteousness. For now, I hope we have been able to loosen some religious strongholds and see truth from Jesus’ perspective. In these few verses he showed us that practicing righteousness is as simple as giving money and praying. Second, he taught that these are to be private practices, just between us and the Father; not secretive, just private practice. There is a difference. Selah! Third, Jesus taught that the Father rewards us for practicing righteousness. Because of Jesus’ teaching, we should expect to be rewarded. Many of us might need to shake the holiness dust from our robes and put on the new garment of Jesus’ teaching. It is befuddling, I agree, but, after all, Jesus is the stumbling block and blessed is the one who does not stumble over him and his teachings.

I hope you have been challenged, but I also pray that you have found liberty so far. Where Jesus is, there is freedom. All his teaching is truth, and his truth sets us free. Let this righteousness teaching revitalize you and lift you higher.

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