Chapter 6 of Matthew forms the center of the Sermon on the Mount.  It takes up where chapter 5 ended when that earlier chapter gave the command to “love your enemies.”

Chapter 6 tells us how to reach the high and difficult standard of divine love that chapter 5 established.

Loving even our enemies becomes possible when we let God work on our inner lives.

Chapter 6 has to do with the transformation of our inner lives.

It opens with advice on how to pray, and this includes the Lord’s Prayer.

After the Lord’s Prayer, chapter 6 finishes with a beautiful passage about putting our worries and anxieties into perspective.  “Look at the birds of the air….”(Matthew 6:25-34.)

But its opening advice on how to pray begins with a warning:

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

Why not do things in order to be seen?

Doing good things in order to be seen is one of the first obstacles we need to overcome as God helps us to transform our inner lives and to love as God loves.

If we’re honest, we know the problem Jesus is pointing out here.

We know what we do when we see a police car.

We know what we do when we don’t see a police car.

But it’s not just that we don’t want to get caught.  We also do things in order to be seen because we want people to like us.

So, we get sucked into conforming to what we think is the generally accepted view of how we should behave instead of thinking for ourselves about a truly good way to live our lives.

We get tricked into conformity, and, although the people around us may sometimes have a good idea of what is good, we end up at best doing good things for the sake of impressing other people and not for the sake of loving them.

When we fail to do the loving thing simply because it is the loving thing, we end up doing fewer loving things.

We certainly end up failing to love our enemies because most of the messages we get from our society and people we want to impress do not tell us to love our enemies.

God gave each of us good minds to figure things out and to make our own decisions.

It never hurts to ask people around us for their wisdom or to observe how they live their lives.  But when we live our lives in order to impress them—when we live our lives in order to be seen on some promenade of good works strolling down the path of righteousness—

then, we have let others make the decisions that God wanted us to make for ourselves.

Prayer for Our Inner Lives and What Is Not Seen

So, let our prayer be, first, that we may receive

forgiveness

for wrong things done and good things not done,

and for doing good things for the wrong reasons,

and, second, that we may receive

the full light and power of God’s grace

in order that we may do good things for the right reasons

and so do even more good things in the future.

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