Pointing Others To God?
Hitchens writes about how he was offered “such a bargain,” of all places, outside the shrine to the Ayatollah Khomeini in south Tehran.
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven. 2 So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. 3 But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.,t
HOW TO PRAY
5 “Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.,v 7 When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. 8 Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him.
16 “Whenever you fast, don’t be gloomy like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive,e so that their fasting is obvious to people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting isn’t obvious to others but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Giving to the Needy as an Act of Mercy
The true believer gives and serves to please God—not for the fleeting approval of man. Also, our lives are to be given to uncalculating generosity. And as we help others we must guard our eyes from wandering from those we are helping to the observers.
How NOT to Fast
HIGH as the ideal of fasting might be, the practice of it involved certain inevitable dangers. The great danger was that some people might fast as a sign of superior piety, that their fasting might be a deliberate demonstration, not to God, but to others, of how devoted and disciplined they were. That is precisely what Jesus was condemning. He was condemning fasting when it was used as an ostentatious parade of piety.
“The light of a Christian character will shine before men and win glory for God without the artificial aid of public advertisement. Ostentatious religion may have its reward here, but it receives none from God.” Christians who judge successful ministries by external statistics such as attendance figures, membership, baptisms, and offerings should seriously rethink their criteria in light of Jesus’ words here. God judges the greatness of his servants by searching their hearts, examining their inner attitudes, and seeing deeds done in secret.
But you puts the follower of Jesus in contrast; that way is not for the disciple. Jesus implies that those who follow him will fast from time to time, but he says nothing about frequency, occasion, or method. He is concerned only with the motive behind the fasting and indeed primarily with the requirement that fasting be done secretly, as a matter between the religious person and God. So the faster is told anoint your head; this points to a normal social custom of the day, but evidently those who fasted sometimes omitted the practice. So with washing the face. It is pleasant to be clean, and evidently it was felt by some who fasted that they should forego this pleasure. And, of course, an untended face is very obvious.