This week we will be discussing Matthew 6:5-34 of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The first part of these readings continues with the theme of avoiding public displays of piety. In the final part of the discussion last week, we looked at the public giving of philanthropy. This week Jesus’ teachings concern the public display of prayer and the public display of penance. Since the time of Ezra, Jews pray thrice daily using a prayer shawl or tallit. During Jesus’ time, the Pharisees and other religious leaders would often make sure that they made their prayers in public and ostentatiously. When they prayed they made sure they made a scene. Likewise, the Torah calls for several fasts throughout the year and on Mondays and Thursdays. Once more the Pharisees would make sure that everyone knew that they were fasting.
In both of these public displays, the question arises as to the true motives behind these public displays of piety. Who are these men trying to impress? The public display per se isn’t wrong, rather it’s the underlying reasons as to why the prayer and fasting must be public. Jesus only gives us three examples of the public display of piety (philanthropy, prayer, and fasting). Think about our own public displays of piety and our own motivations for others to see us engage in these public acts. Where, when, and why do we want to be seen by others as being good Christians?
The second part of the readings is Jesus’s teachings on worry and how we are to emulate the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. I have attached Soren Kierkegaard’s first mediation on this teaching from his work The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air. If you have the opportunity, please read.
Dinner is at 6. The menu is chili. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here and please bring a friend.
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’”Luke 18:9-14