“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:12,13)
In our study this morning we hear from Jesus about the importance of right motives in the sacred acts of prayer and giving (Matthew 6:1-6). What Jesus is teaching us is the fact that outward acts of “devotion” to God are not always what they appear to be. Jesus tells us that it is possible for “religious” or “spiritual” people to be doing biblical things with wrong or questionable motives. In our Scriptures, Jesus calls these religious frauds “hypocrites”. The Greek word translated “hypocrite” was a word that was used in the Greek theaters to describe the actors who wore a mask to portray another person.
The illustration that Jesus uses is pointed and powerful. There are people who can be doing good things outwardly, with wrong motivation inwardly. In speaking of this, Jesus said, “Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Matthew 23:28) When it came to the sacred act of giving, Jesus says, “Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.” (Matthew 6:2) In speaking of the sacred act of praying, Jesus says, “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.” (Matthew 6:5) They did what they did to impress men, not out of a love for God and for His glory.
But before I start pointing my bony finger at these men, I need to ask The Lord to search my heart first. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23,24) You see, beloved, we can fool others, and we can even try to justify our wrong actions, but we cannot fool God. “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:10) The congregation in Ephesus was doing the right things, but they weren’t motivated by the love of Jesus (Revelation 2:1-5). The ultimate motive for doing whatever we do is for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Peter 4:10,11).