Look At Me! - A Reflection on Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
I know that we have heard this passage so often, especially during Lent, that we believe we understand what Jesus is trying to say here: not to put on public displays of our acts of holiness, but to be a little discreet. That is the primary lesson, of course, but we might obtain a few more jewels if we dig deeper.
One. Do note that when Jesus is talking about almsgiving, prayer, and fasting, he is not saying we need to be discrete IF we choose to do them, but WHEN we choose to do them. Which means these three things are not optional to the believer. We need to give alms, we need to pray, and we need to fast. When is the last time we did any or all of the three?
Two. God takes note of these three things that we do and rewards us accordingly. Of course, we know that God takes note of our prayers, and also of our fasting, but almsgiving? There is a wonderful example of how almsgiving and prayers work together. Remember Cornelius, whom God sent to Peter to receive the good news of salvation? He had a vision, where an angel appeared before him saying, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God” (Acts 10:4b).
Why so? Prayers have little meaning unless they are accompanied with demonstrations of faith. Let me explain. When we pray it is usually seeking blessings, is it not? And God blesses us. But when we receive blessings and we hoard them for ourselves, refusing to share them with others, we show ourselves to be a selfish, greedy lot. How can we do that?
Three. God wants to reward us, but only when we seek to be rewarded by him. When we seek rewards from human beings, then we forfeit the rewards that God wants to give us. The logic is simple enough if one takes a moment to reason it out. Whose appreciation do we really seek when we do things—and not just “holy” things, but everything? God’s appreciation or man’s? If we seek man’s appreciation and we receive it, then we have already got our reward, haven’t we? End of story.
Getting God’s appreciation is better. It is less fickle too. Let us go for that instead.