Matthew 6 and 8
As I read and studied these chapters, I noted Christ was making a point through all of the encounters and actions of the people, as He usually did. Jesus’ point was that everything they and we do should be done as to the Lord. Often times we are so caught up in doing we forget for whom we are doing it. We are so caught up in living life we forget who gave us this life to live. These need to be melded to a point where we realize from where we came and by whom we receive provision so we give back in actions and tangible gifts to others because God gave to us. We give glory to God in this way.
Consider Matthew 6. Each of the stories he shared talks about a part of life. The first part is giving to the poor. Jesus told them not to give to the poor so they can be seen, but give to the poor as if they were giving to God and to give in secret because God knows who is giving it to Him. What is important is their attitude, not their actions. Jesus said if they are doing their actions just to get approval from people, then they have their reward on earth to the detriment of their reward in heaven, a relationship with God.
Jesus went further and said not to pray in a way to receive praise from people. They were praying on busy street corners loudly and elaborately. Jesus said they should be praying to continue in their relationship with God. If they were praying to be with God, they should go to a room or place by themselves and be with Him.
Matthew continued by saying when they fast they should do so in a way that did not draw attention to them. Religious fasting was between God and them. Fasting is not a matter among men, so they did not have to be seen by men.
Additionally, Matthew spoke of storing up produce, products, and money for a rainy day or the future, to ensure we do not have to worry about from where we will get our clothes, food, drink, and shelter. Matthew said this was unnecessary since our Creator, God, is the same God who created the birds. The birds do not worry about food, shelter, or clothing. Since God takes care of them, we can trust He will take care of us. Jesus said not to worry about our life. Anxiety does not make the worrisome part go away, trusting in God does. God, who loves us, will take care to give what we need.
What we are to be doing is work for God, not to be seen by men, and to be in a relationship with Him, not in the public eye. It does not matter how much we show how “religious” we are, what matters is how close we are to the heart of God. If the latter is true, the above four things will occur because God’s heart through His Holy Spirit’s indwelling will show through us and our lives.
Matthew continued this similar idea in chapter 8 except he contrasted the faith of different people. In the first encounter, a leper spoke to Jesus saying if Jesus will, He can heal him (the leper). Jesus said He was willing and touched and healed him. This man had the faith to be healed. His statement as he confronted Jesus showed it as well as his willingness to go to the priests to be declared ritually clean. He did not need, for his benefit, to go to the priests to recognize he was healed, but for society and culture. They needed to hear by the priests and leaders of his healing.
The second encounter was with a centurion, a Roman soldier. This centurion had been informed about Jesus and His healing powers and trusted the reports enough to ask Jesus to heal His servant. When Jesus listened to the story, He said He would go the centurion’s home. The centurion’s faith was strong and he felt humbled to be in Jesus’ presence. The centurion said Jesus did not need to go to his home, but just say the word and his servant would be healed. Jesus stated he had not encountered so great a faith and told the centurion to go on his way; what he had asked for had been done, as he trusted.
After this, Jesus and his disciples went to Peter’s home where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. When they finished dinner, many sick and demon possessed people were brought to Him. He healed many and drove out many demons. Jesus cares about our temporal physical needs and our spiritual needs.
The last section begins with this next story. Jesus, being crushed by the multitude of people, asked the disciples to get into a boat with Him and row to the other side. Before they were able to get in the boats, though, a scribe came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go” (8:19). Jesus was aware the scribes were renowned for their knowledge of Scripture and their teaching. These men were often a part of the Sanhedrin, the supreme religious body of the nation of Israel. They were leaders used to leading and, most likely, wealthier than other Jews. Jesus confronted this man’s speedy avowal of discipleship by declaring even He, the Son of Man, did not have a place to lay His head or call His home (vs. 20). As we understand, God takes care of clothing, feeding, and sheltering His own. We do not read of this scribe joining Jesus and the other disciples. It is easy to be caught up in the emotions of the moment and say we are going to follow Jesus, but then not followthrough on our commitment. Jesus was confronting this man at his own level, what he considers necessary for life.
After this, another disciple came and told Jesus to let him go bury his father first. Jesus told him to “let the dead, the non-believers, bury the dead. You must follow Me.” (Matthew 8:22, NASB). We do not see the man following Jesus after this. To make a lifelong commitment to follow Jesus requires letting others take care of tasks at home and letting the ministry to which God has called you and your relationship with Him be preeminent in your life. Jesus recognized this man was unable to do this that is why He confronted him on this point.
While Jesus and the disciples were at sea, a great storm blew up and began to swamp the boat. The disciples grew very afraid. When they awoke Jesus they told Him they were perishing at sea. Jesus chastised their little faith, then calmed the storm and the sea. The disciples, just that day, had seen a great faith in the Roman centurion and had seen Jesus heal the sick and banish demons from people. When the disciples confronted Jesus in fear, Jesus remarked and reminded them again about the faith of the centurion. He now saw small faith in His Jewish disciples, who should have known Him better. Here they showed just how much they believed Jesus by saying, “What manner of man is this?” (Matthew 8:27, NASB). The centurion came with enough faith to trust without seeing; whereas, the disciples had to see, yet again, to believe. Jesus has shown this day that He is master over natural elements, spiritual realms, and physical beings. He is almighty God. In the end, Jesus and the disciples reached the other side of the sea and stood on land.
Two people possessed with demons confronted them and proclaimed Jesus as the Son of God without instigation. Even the demons acknowledged who Jesus was then, yet the disciples had trouble believing in the midst of a storm and with Jesus beside them. Jesus healed these people and cast the demons into the swine nearby which ran into the sea.
What does this tell us? I tells us, as priority number one, we must have a growing, continual relationship with God. Once we are acquainted with the triune God without doubt and anxiety, we understand God will always take care of our needs. What we imagine we need and what God knows we need may be two different things. He knows He is going to call us to move to another country to minister there. We do not know exactly how He is going to use us. It could be we have allowed the secular influence to create unnecessary desires in us for the latest technology, food, alcohol, or smoking. None of these is necessary for life. As we read in the previous two chapters of Matthew, God fills our physical, psychical, and spiritual needs. He provides for us and defends us. We can choose to be like the scribe and be unwilling to live without specific things or we can be as the centurion who was familiar with Jesus based on stories. The centurion came to Him willing to believe even without seeing Him do the healing.
From Chapter 6 and chapter 8 we read that giving to the poor, healing the sick or demon-possessed, and praying are not bad, but the attitude in which they are done is what determines if they are worthy as gifts of sacrifice and praise to God. Did we do each of these to honor God or ourselves? Obviously, the second is the wrong reason. In all we do, we should work so God receives the praise and glory. The only way in which we can make each of the things we do bring praise and glory to God is by offering our actions and attitudes to God as we act upon the love He has put in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. The question we ultimately must ask is: To whom did the praise go for this action? I hope you are staying in a continual relationship with God so that your actions, thoughts, and attitudes come from your interactions and love relationship with God.