Matthew 6 was written in a time of persecution to a bunch of Christ followers really unfamiliar with their own Hebrew history. That's why Matthew spends so much time citing references from the Hebrew scriptures with the tag line "this was to fulfill the words of the prophet...", etc.
Chapter 6, vv. 1-21, are also an excellent guide for how to live faith that is genuine on the streets of an increasingly hostile world. It's sorta what a figure skating coach has to create in the skater all alone on the ice.
It has to come from inside. You can't fake it in front of the crowd. Because when it's fake, when it's not really coming from the inside, you fall apart for all the world to see.
Faith has to be lived for real, not for show.
Doing compassionate things in the neighborhood has to come from inside. It's about them, about all of us together, not how we look in front of the cameras.
Prayer is the same deal. It's not about how many words we pray but how honestly we pray. We may have to do it in the quiet and in the dark, not in the spotlight and before the microphones.
Forgiveness is like love. It only works when it's given away. It ain't genuine unless it is--given away, that is.
Our hearts are always wrapped up with what we treasure. Matthew advises: 1) Don't treasure that which isn't really treasure. It will abandon you and let you down; kill you instead of giving you life. 2) Don't pretend to treasure what you really don't. Living a life inconsistent what where your heart really is leads only to things that are not good.
There is reward in these examples. The Father who sees in secret and who sees the heart will not let it be overcome. Honest compassion, honest prayer, honest forgiveness, honest treasure of the enduring things of God will result in life in us--which is the only place that life can ever be, of course. That's where God put it in the first place.
Thanks be to God!
Wanna see and read something real on the inside? Read the guest post by Hugh H. at my friend Karen's blog site:
Oh, that tree in the picture? It's at the 7,000' elevation at Moraine Lake campsite near South Sister, Oregon where I camped and climbed last August. Sorta looks like a really rugged cross, doesn't it? The only thing that's alive is the moss on the bare trunk and the carpenter ants slowly dismantling the whole thing. Tough environment there in the wind and ice, the cold and the heat. Trees take a beating just like we do in the world. But they don't stop growing there. Neither can we.