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All of us keep secrets. There are some things that are no one else’s business but ours—and God’s.

In the middle of the Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, recorded for us in Matthew 5 through 7, the Lord mentions three things that are to be kept secret.

We are to keep our charitable acts a secret (Matthew 6:1-4). Matthew writes: “Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men to be seen by them” (vs. 1). To make a big deal about how generous we are with the expectation that others will honour us for that generosity ends up becoming our only reward. People may praise us, but God won’t.

We are to keep our personal prayers to ourselves (Matthew 6:5-8). There are many Scriptures that tell us how important corporate prayer is so this passage isn’t saying that we shouldn’t come together as a group of believers to pray together, The message is that we shouldn’t pray to be admired by men. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men” (vs. 5). As in the instructions about giving, those who seek man’s admiration for the quality of their prayers will lose God’s admiration for those same prayers. Coupled with this is the warning not to go on and on as if God were deaf, or as though we could wear Him down by the sheer volume of our words. “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words” (vs. 7). Babbling is defined as: “prattle, rattle on, chatter, jabber, twitter, go on, run on, prate, ramble, burble, blather; informal gab, yap, yak, yabber, yatter, yammer, blabber, jaw, gas, shoot one's mouth off, run off at the mouth.” This particular section ends with “...for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (vs. 8). The old K.I.S.S. methods works: Keep it simple, stupid.

The third “secret” concerns fasting. “...when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting...” (vs. 17, 18). The warning in all three cases is against looking for the approval of men rather than that of God. The common version of the “hunger strike” is meant to gain the attention of the public in order to get a point across, to gain sympathy and support for a cause. That’s not what fasting is about. Biblically, fasting is a sign of mourning and repentance not a ploy to get God, or anyone else, to act on our behalf or to be impresses with us. It is private and Jesus reminds His audience that it needs to be done in secret.

Obviously, the theme here is being careful to do what we do to please God not men, for His glory not ours. Jesus uses three examples here: giving, prayer, and fasting. But the same warning would be true for anything else we do. As Paul wrote: “...whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31).


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