I have been enjoying what Jesus said in Matthew 6:5-8 these last two weeks and find myself going back often to read and listen to what he is saying. The more I come to understand the love of my Father, the more it seems His Word speaks new and refreshing things to me. It is like having just finished a fine meal with friends and loved ones and then sipping on a fine cup of coffee together. The pleasure of fellowship never stops!
Jesus has just started introducing the concept of God being a Father to this crowd that had gathered to listen to what has been called the “Sermon on the Mount.” Imagine, that God, the Almighty, Jehovah, Yahweh, the Maker of Heaven and earth, is now being revealed to us as a Dad. As you can imagine, the religious folks of that day were fit to be tied when Jesus started saying this.
When it came to the subject of prayer Jesus talks about the prayer habits of three types of people; the hypocrite, the son and the pagan or heathen as some versions use. After meditating on this I have come to think that maybe all three were equally as sincere in their efforts, although clearly, each experienced different results. Each would have had the burden of needs within their hearts and as such, were looking for answers.
When we hear the word “hypocrite”, we immediately think of that person we all think we know who is talking one way, but living another. At times, I have had to simply walk past my own mirror to notice that person following me wherever I went. Sometimes we spring too fast into attack mode rather than stopping to consider the heart that may be not only unbelieving, but broken.
I kept reading this about the person Jesus described in Matthew 6:5 and was stuck on one thought. Why would anyone in their right mind exchange the rewards of a loving Heavenly Father for those of man? What I have come to discover, is that it if someone has never really experienced the rewards of their Heavenly Father in a personal way, then the only other place to receive from would be man.
I am not talking here about a Christian compared to a non-Christian. No, sadly, many Christians, though they be bought by the Blood of the Lamb and have their names written in the Book of Life, have never come to experience God as their Daddy. Like the religious folks in Jesus’ day, many have never had the relational experience with the very One Jesus died, to not only bring us to (John 14:6), but to free Him to come to us! (Mark 1:9, James 4:8)
My heart is saddened as I think of those who have settled for the praise and rewards of man, which can only perhaps last a life time, instead of realizing the praise and rewards from the One who lasts for Eternity. The next time you see this hypocrite “doing their thing”; instead of reacting in anger, judgment or condemnation, perhaps a little experiential love might make all the difference in the world to them!
I will come back the son in Jesus’ story, but first go to the “pagan” in verse seven. Again, we hear a word like “pagan” or “heathen”, and immediately we think of some sin soaked, demon worshiping sinner, but is that really who Jesus was referring to? Like the hypocrite, I think the pagan could be a sometime picture of someone who has come to the Cross, but again, has missed the rest of the journey. That journey goes from the Cross to the Father, and anything less, is to miss the fullness of what the God of John 3:16- 17 intended!
A pagan or heathen is someone who has adapted to the culture and customs around them. In other words, we could possibly say that they are people who have continued to follow the traditions of men rather than the traditions of God. Oh yes, we have traditions in church that may or may not reflect the truths of God’s Word. Like the hypocrite, the pagan may have never really experienced intimacy with the Father. The results is that they stay in the “safe zone” of what they think works, regardless of the fact that these things often produce little or no results, instead of coming to the One who can make all things new!
So, the “babbling” Jesus speaks of here can be the continued and constant use of failed practices and formulas long proven unfruitful. This reminds me of some folks who run from one seminar or conference to another to “learn and try” the newest trend in Christianity, but who still at the end of the day feel hopeless and unchanged. In other words, we are doing the “stuff” of Christianity, but not really experiencing the Father behind it all. Insanity isn’t it?
But, oh the place and peace of a son or daughter and the rest they will find in Him! The son or daughter in the story can enter a place of quiet assurance, and although they cannot see their Father, have the full knowledge of His presence and His love for them. They know that while they can and must ask, their Daddy already knows the thoughts and needs of their hearts.
With the assurance of a loving Daddy’s presence and His sincere longing for His child, that child can enter into intimate dialog on a higher level than that off just making requests. Now, the child turns to a higher place of worship and desire towards the One who alone can do all things. In this new place of adoration towards their Father, the child is now carried away to places yet unknown.
My heart is concerned for the hypocrites and pagans who are missing the relationship with our Father that Christ died to obtain for them. When someone leans towards the rewards of man over the rewards of God, or finds the need to rehearse over and over prayers that never seem to be answered, then it is time for a change.
Father, may our hearts break as yours over the brokenness of your children. May we be ever mindful of the empty places you are taking us from and the place of quiet rest you are offering us. I pray that your love would so flow in and through me that those around me might abandon their fruitless practices in exchange for the love of God that brings true life!
Vince Mercardante Sr 5-9-10