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Life of Christ (2007-2009)

Secret Saint

Matthew 6:1-18

Lesson audio

If there is a sin which is taught against in this passage, it is vainglory – a word no longer in use around the church. But consider what our Lord did here:

He roots out in what remains the most tyrannical passion of all, the rage and madness with respect to vainglory, which springs up in them that do right. (Chrysostom)

Vainglory – defined by Noah Webster as “Exclusive vanity excited by one's own performances; empty pride; undue elation of mind” – is a word seldom heard these days. It is not even a “church word;” the concept has disappeared from the average Christian’s mind. The sin, however, has not so disappeared. Let us see our Lord’s words on the subject.


Mat 6:1-4 NIV

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (2) "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. (3) But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, (4) so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Our local university recently announced some grand news. It seems that a Mr. Steven G. Mihaylo (pronounce that once or twice) has given the school thirty million dollars for its College of Business and Economics. To no one’s surprise, the school renamed it the Steven G. Mihaylo College of Business and Economics. As this is a secular university, we may assume that Mr. Mihaylo has, or will, receive whatever reward and recognition intended. We may also assume he will receive most of the recognition from the school.

The Christian, however, receives his rewards from God. This places a different outlook on the giver. Sometimes he must accept that his reward will not be given to him in this life; other times, that he will be rewarded greatly in this life – and all proportions in between. There is no sin in this – unless the Christian performed his charity for the purpose of being recognized and rewarded. We may see the steps by which this comes about:

·         People tend to praise good things – and this is as it should be.

·         People are motivated by praise. If you praise me for doing a good job, it’s likely enough that I will try to do a good job again.

·         So where does the sin creep in? When I begin to do my good deeds just so that I will be praised for it.

There is only one solution to this: humility. As we shall see, this is greatly aided when we remember the phrase, “to God be the glory.”


Mat 6:5-8 NIV "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. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. (6) But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (7) And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. (8) Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Again, we have a question of motive – are you doing it for the sake of being praised by others? Why would we do this? Perhaps it is simply that we do not believe that God will really reward us, and we see the praise of others as a substitute. It’s a poor one. For both on earth and in the world to come the Father is quite capable of rewarding you – if you will not doubt.

We are then told not to “keep on babbling like the pagans.” We must presume that this is meant to apply to (among other situations) the number of magic prayers circulating on the Internet (“don’t break the chain!”)

He knows what we need; why then do we pray at all?

  • It is certainly not to teach him our wants and desires – but rather to prevail in our walk with Christ.
  • We certainly become closer to Him the more we pray.
  • Perhaps least desired and most useful, in prayer we are humbled, being reminded of our sins.

Mat 6:16-18 NIV "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. (17) But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, (18) so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew Henry called it, “the humbling of the soul.” For many years relegated to footnote, it has achieved a certain popularity in the church. Unfortunately, this advice seems to have been neglected by some. Vainglory, again.

So one might ask: just how is it that the Christian can be both light to the world, and hidden from the world as well? If you wanted to hide a book – you’d put it in a library. If you wanted to hide a leaf, a forest. A man, a city. And if you wanted to hide the light that shines before men, do so in a lighthouse – a church full of those whose good deeds are evident and rewarded by God.

Upon these preliminaries we may now examine the Lord’s Prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer

Mat 6:9-15 NIV "This, then, is how you should pray:

" 'Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name, (10) your kingdom come,

your will be done

on earth as it is in heaven. (11) Give us today our daily bread. (12) Forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors. (13) And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from the evil one.[1]' (14) For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (15) But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.


Chrysostom shares this with us:

For who calls God Father, in that one title confesses at once the forgiveness of sins, the adoption, the heirship, the brotherhood, which he has with the Only-begotten, and the gift of the Spirit. For none can call God Father, but he who has obtained all these blessings. In a two-fold manner, therefore, he moves the feeling of them that pray, both by the dignity of Him who is prayed to, and the greatness of those benefits which we gain by prayer.

We have come to the root of western civilization: the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God. In Christ we find equality; in Christ we find kinship and kindness to each other; in Christ we find the moral compass that distinguishes the civilized from the barbarian.

Consider the opposite view: the idea that we are all mere animals, the products of unknowing evolution. This justified Hitler’s racial ideas – the best animals should rule over the others. This justified “family planning” – whose roots were in the idea that abortion for black mothers should be most encouraged (racial inferiority, you know.) This justified the millions of deaths at the hands of Stalin and Mao-Tse-Tung, as those who did not support the higher goals for the people. It is also the chief prop of American liberalism; the barbarians are within the gates.

This is also a reminder of our sins; it’s our Father in heaven, not Washington DC.

Hallowed be your name

Would you drive out vainglory? Do it with the glory of God. If He is lifted up, no one need see me.

His name – not just (as we would have it today) a label conveniently attached. It is, rather, a statement of His nature – I AM. In that name we baptize; in that name we forgive. What is bound up on earth will be bound up in heaven.

Your kingdom come
  • If we are the sons of the Great King, God Himself, should we not ask for a kingdom appropriate for the children of such a king?
  • If we do so pray, does it not imply a high confidence? For if we pray for such a kingdom, we certainly pray therefore for the judgment which will arrive with it. Are we so confident?
  • But if we do pray for His kingdom, are we not kindling the desire to do what is right – here on earth?
Your will be done
  • When you pray for His will to be done, are you not surrendering your own to Him? Or at least you should be.
  • But note: it’s not just me, I’m praying for everyone on earth to do this. It’s a form of unselfishness; I want everyone to know my joy.

The prayer now shifts; we may begin to ask on our own behalf.

Our daily bread
  • Note that it’s “this day” and “our daily bread.” There is no thought of my retirement fund – for we must be taught to trust our Lord.
  • It’s bread. It’s not chocolate frosted jelly donuts. He knows our needs – and also the wants that distract us. See what we are to pray for!
  • Why so? Again, He wants you to learn to trust Him. Day by day, not just “someday.” Nor “any day.” Today.
Forgive us our debts

We might as well face it: there is no sense in the New Testament that forgiveness is offered on any other terms than forgiving others. Forgiveness of God is divine, and beyond price – and we are offered this at the price of our own forgiveness.

It is but a specific instance of a general rule: by what standard you measure, you will be measured. If you are one who forgives easily, considering offenses against you as light and transient things, then our Lord will see your sins in the same way.

Lead us not
  • First things first: just to pronounce these words is to admit our own weakness as sinners. We need not just forgiveness but protection against the next temptation.
  • Having said that, it also is an admission that His power is sufficient to keep us from temptation – if we will follow.

The end is translated “deliver us from the Evil One.” In this the reality of Satan is proclaimed; in so proclaiming we pronounce ourselves inferior to him – and claim the leadership and protection of God against him.

The world looks different, when viewed from the foot of the Cross.

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