Making it Real

Matthew 6: 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.

Last week we looked at verse 1, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” We said this was Jesus’ opening statement, disclosing that he was going to speak about practicing righteousness and being rewarded by God for so doing. This week, let us continue by asking what Jesus means by “practicing righteousness.”

Many of us may not think that righteousness is a practice. We may think it is a goal to be pursued, or perhaps an ideal which cannot be achieved this side of heaven. Jesus’ teaching should immediately challenge our perception. As I read the first verse, I find myself curious and expectant. How do we practice righteousness? Jesus said this is a practice which we are not to do before men in order to be noticed by them. That means, it may be something we do in the sight of others, but not for any emotional or tangible reward we get from a public display. Second, Jesus may be suggesting that righteousness is also practiced in private. Okay, we are with you so far Jesus, but what is the practice of righteousness? Is it public prayer? Is it church service? Tell us what to do in order to practice righteousness!

In verse two Jesus begins to show us this practice. Giving alms, that means money, is an act of righteousness. Two things hit me when I read this. First, I wasn’t surprised that God would treat giving as an act of righteousness. He often responds to occurrences by giving (John 3: 16) and encourages, even expects us to do the same. The other reaction I had was disappointment. I was looking for something more holy than donating money.

That’s just like us, isn’t it? We look for a spiritual ritual of great magnitude and holiness that will set us apart from this mundane earthly experience. Instead, we find Jesus teaching us that righteousness is practical, hence, a practice. It is as simple as giving money. Are you kidding me? As I read verse two, I could scarcely read it because I quickly began to scan below to find the “holy” answer. Was this really the answer to my question about how I am to practice righteousness? In verse two Jesus told us what not to do. Verses three and four contain instructions of what to do, “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

Is this as loud to you as it was to me? These verses find Jesus instructing us on practicing righteousness, declaring this is something we can and should do. Second, practicing righteousness is as simple and ordinary as giving money. Third, when we perform this very modest act, our Father in heaven rewards us. Wow! I think that is amazing.

Jesus revealed a spiritual truth, a holy practice, and it turns out that it is something I can do easily. However, I must do this simple practice of giving in private, not bragging or shouting about my great righteousness, not banging a gong, or even whispering a secret. I give and no one knows how much, and God reckons that as righteousness! I am astounded at this teaching.

Moreover, Jesus revealed that God wants to reward us. He encourages us to practice righteous giving by promising to reward us. I know that we think to expect a reward is unholy and vile, but in our sanctimonious fervor, we imply that we are more holy than God! Can you see that? If rewarding us is God’s response to our practicing righteousness, then how can the reward or the act of rewarding be anything less than holy? Didn’t we say, above, that giving is how God responds? How, then, can it be anything less than holy? We are emulating the Father when we give, and He rewards us for acting as He acts. That reward is just the simple act of Him giving. It causes me to wonder if we will ever find an act that is more holy.

Next week, we will see what else Jesus had to say about practicing righteousness. In the meantime, enjoy your practice!


Isaiah 57: 15

For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

Although God lives in a high and holy place, above and beyond all that we can even imagine, He also has come to make His abode with each of us. Why? So that He can revive us. No matter how weary you become; no matter how stressed and overtaxed you are, the Spirit of the living God has come to live with you so He can build you back up and restore you. He is even ready to come to your aid when your heart is burdened or injured. He knows your deep concerns and hurts. He recognizes how weary you are from worry and the concerns of life. He wants to be your ready helper. He wants to be the one you turn to for restoration. He can take you to that high and holy place with him and refresh you with His springs of living water.

There is nothing or no one in this earth, above or below, that is more important to Him than you. Rather than just sit on His holy throne in the lofty places, he wants to be with you. All that He has done throughout history He did in order to accomplish this goal. His primary desire is just to be with you and help you. It is all He has every wanted. He is your hiding place and your refreshing water. His life is in you.

Holy, Holy, Holy

Exodus 28: 36

Holy to the Lord.

You probably recognize this verse as coming from the epic tale of the Israelites escape from captivity in Egypt and ultimate arrival in the promised land. Aaron was Moses’ brother and the first High Priest of Israel. His appointment and consecration to his office was met with solemnity and formality. This marked the beginning of the priesthood of Israel. God set out exactly what the priest’s attire was to be. One of the things God ordained was that a medallion of pure gold was to be engraved with the words, “Holy to the Lord” upon it. This medallion was to be affixed to the center of the turban that the High Priest was to wear. Everyone, therefore, who encountered Aaron would be met first by these defining words.

It is noteworthy that God did not have these words engraved on a ring, a necklace or any other adornment. The words, “Holy to the Lord” were worn right in the center of Aaron’s forehead. Kings and Queens wear and carry many symbols of their office and of power. None is more poignant, though, than the crown. There is something about crowning a person’s head that seems to produce a greater message than anything else. That is why it seems significant that God chose the forehead of the priest for this telling message. Think of this too, if you look at yourself in the mirror, do you not almost always see your head? You may not see much of the rest of your body but most often the image of your head is reflected back to you. So, imagine what Aaron looked upon every time he saw himself.

So, you are waiting for the parity of this verse to your life, aren’t you? Well, I say that “Holy to the Lord” is emblazoned on your forehead as well. I honestly believe that every one who can see in the spiritual realm, including demons, sees that you have been marked as a highly valued member of the royal family. We know that there will be a time when people will be pressured to take the mark of the beast upon themselves but there are verses in the Bible which tell us that we have already been marked by and for God (Ephesians 4: 30 Amp). We are His and His alone and I think you can take great comfort in that. I want you to see even more than that though. I want you to see in the reflection in your mirror, “Holy to the Lord”. Every time you look in the mirror to put on your make-up or shave, the words “Holy to the Lord” should shine back at you. You are holy and precious. It is right there, as plain as the nose on your face.