Let’s pretend that you’re single and you meet the man or woman of your dreams. This person is amazing -- everything you could have ever imagined a beloved could be, and more. All the others just adore him or her, including you.
Now let’s pretend you and this person start seeing each other. Yeah! But you begin to notice something kind of funny. Your beloved only pays attention to you when other people are around. When you go out, it has to be with other people.
Your beloved is very affectionate, but never looks at you when holding your hand or giving you a kiss; instead he or she is always looking around to see if anybody else is paying attention to the fact that you are being treated so nicely. Your beloved doesn’t remember special days with you, not even with a card, or just saying “Happy Birthday,” unless other people are going to be there as well.
After a while you realize that you and your beloved are never alone together, and the couple times you happen to see your beloved alone he or she acts embarrassed and quickly gets away. How about it? This sound like a great relationship?
In His Sermon on the Mountainside, Jesus has been teaching on the theme of real righteousness. What does it look like; how is it different than pretend righteousness that's just done for show?
In today's text, Matthew 6, Jesus goes deeper.
(1) He talks about the difference between righteousness that reflects a real relationship with God, and what’s just posing, faking it.
(2) Jesus is saying that if the relationship is real, then the only righteous thing to do is to put your full trust in God.
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven." (Matthew 6:1 ESV)
A hypocrite, in the biblical use of the word, is someone who deliberately uses religion, and religious activity, to cover up their sin and promote themselves. The Greek word translated “hypocrite” means “an actor who wears a mask.”
The Pharisees practiced their acts of righteousness in such a way that they would get maximum applause from everybody else. They were racking up points, in their minds, to obligate God to treat them well, and they were racking up points with the people in their community. What they weren’t looking for was the reward of an actual relationship with God, filled with a deep sense of His presence, His love, and His forgiveness.
Watch out, Jesus is saying, don’t use your Christian life to show off to other people, or show off to important people like your pastor so you’ll get their approval and gratitude. You will miss out on what actually matters, and what will last for all eternity--the treasure of heaven.