Tom scowled as he furiously raked leaves. “I was gonna collect aluminum cans today to make a little money for a new skateboard,” he muttered to himself, “but no! Dad says I have to help rake the lawn first, so here I am, doing dumb yard work.” Just then, he noticed a large hole in the base of a big tree. “Look, Dad,” he called as he knelt to peer inside. “I never noticed this before. This would be a good place to hide stuff.”
Dad walked over to look. “Maybe there’s a cache of jewels or a sack of stolen money inside,” he teased. He poked his rake into the hole, and they heard a scraping sound as the rake hit a metal object.
“Something is hidden in there!” cried Tom. Plunging his hand inside the cavity, he felt around and finally pulled out a small box. “Wow! A real treasure chest!” he shouted. “I wonder who put it there.” Eagerly, Tom opened the old box and looked inside. Then he let out a disappointed groan. The treasure turned out to be a handful of multicolored stones, a rusty pocketknife, and a soggy, moldy book about fishing.
“Somebody must have hidden these things, but then forgot about them,” said Dad. “Now look at them. I hope whoever stored these here put most of his treasures in a better place.”
“Yeah. Maybe he got smart and started putting important things in one of those safe deposit boxes at the bank,” suggested Tom.
“I was thinking of an even better place than that,” said Dad. “Jesus said we should put our treasures in heaven, where they’ll never be ruined or stolen.” Dad shook his head. “We often put so much emphasis on things here on earth–things like houses and clothes and cars . . .”
And skateboards, thought Tom.
“We need to remember that things won’t last,” said Dad. As Tom looked at the rusty pocketknife, he realized that what Dad was saying was true. I still want a skateboard, he thought, but I guess I shouldn’t get so upset over it. He put the box back into the hole in the tree and picked up his rake.
The choices we make today affect our future. Our words, our actions, how we use our money, the time we spend in prayer can be translated to eternal treasure when they are submitted to God. What the world offers isn’t what we are looking for. It leaves us disappointed.
Trumpets are sounded as signals to large groups of people. Anyone who draws attention to himself is said to “blow his own horn.” For example, the temple compound housed 13 large chests with funnel-like openings into which people placed their financial contributions. Hypocrites often converted their gifts into the largest number of coins possible so their money would make a loud noise when dropped into the chest. This is what the Pharisees did when they gave alms. These alms were given to be seen by men, so every effort was made to prevent people from missing the sight. The Pharisees had the reward they were looking for-the admiration of the people. It was the only reward they would receive.
When we give, we should give with a pure motive-obedience to God, out of love for our fellow man, or just wanting to help someone else who is trying to make it through another day here on earth. When we give not to be seen by men but out of a right heart, God will reward us openly. Everyone will see that God’s hand is on us. God’s blessings will come into our lives.
The hypocrisy of the Pharisees extended to public prayer. They stood in the synagogues and on street corners and, with faces turned to heaven and hands lifted high, offered silent prayers. It was a pretended act of paying respect to God when it was really an effort to obtain honour from men. Standing does not merely describe the upright position of a person’s body. It also suggests striking a pose to gain attention. The Pharisees were committed to praying at set hours: at six, nine, twelve and three o’clock. They arranged to be in the most public places at these times so they would be recognized for their commitment to God. Jesus is not condemning public prayer but prayer that is self-serving.
Jesus modelled for us the proper way to pray and give alms. Both were to be done in secret. For example, many times Jesus went off by Himself to pray to God. Sometimes He took people aside to heal them in private. The time we spend with God in prayer should be free from disguise and pretense.
Prayer involves opening our lives to God. It is inviting Him to act in our lives. Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, it is being willing to accept His will in our lives. Prayer moves the hand of God by giving Him the moral freedom to do in our lives what He has been waiting to do. God doesn’t impose His will upon us. He can function in our lives in accordance with the degree of freedom we surrender to Him.
Jesus doesn’t say how often we should pray to God in secret. The reasons may have been:
- That it should be voluntary
- Setting times would make religion formal and heartless.
- Occasions would be so numerous that it would not be easy to fix rules.
Jesus did suggest times when secret prayer would be proper:
- In the morning, after we have been protected during the night and when we are about to face the trials of another day.
- In the evening to ask for forgiveness, give thanks and ask for protection from the dangers of the night.
- In times of embarrassment and difficulty.
- When we are tempted.
- When the Holy Spirit prompts us to pray.
Part of our prayer life should include fasting, provided that it is not a ritual but a voluntary time of meditation when drawing near to God. Fasting deprives us of the normal performances of life for the sake of enriching our Christian lives. The proper way of fasting is to empty ourselves so we can be filled with God. It is by truly giving of ourselves that we will be truly found. We do these things not to be hypocrites but to be real about our origins and our destiny.
Jesus warns against the use of fasting-going without food or water to devote oneself to prayer-as a means of impressing others. Fasting is never to be an outward display but an inward discipline. Rather than looking sad and disfiguring their faces when fasting, believers should seek to appear normal-thus the command to “anoint your head and wash your face.”
In New Testament times, treasures were not always stockpiles of coins. Since wealthy garments often represented a person’s holding, Jesus spoke quite literally when He warned the people that moths could destroy the worldly wealth. It is better to place one’s hope in the Person and promises of God than in anything this world has to offer.
Earthly treasures have two characteristics-they decay and because of their value, there is always concern for security. Treasures in heaven can’t be stolen, and they won’t decay. The treasures of eternal life are the securities that remain. They are matters of character-a godly personality, minds that can enjoy the great thoughts of God and His creation, and hearts that can overcome selfishness by loving.
Jesus is not against the accumulation of wealth and property if they are not used for our own selfish purposes. These resources are to be used to help the poor and spread the Good News of the Gospel. Only then will we have true happiness, because our reward will be waiting for us in heaven, and our reward will last.
It is the true nature of Christianity to help the poor and needy. Christians don’t have to be told to do it. All they have to do is ask for the chance. To give and do charitable deeds in secret reflects a person’s desire to please God more than people. God blesses those who honour Him.
Jesus emphasized service for the sake of righteousness or fellowship with God. When we serve for the praise of God, we will be blessed, but it won’t be noticed by other people. Our reward will be a good conscience and peace with God. We must not scheme or plan for our advantage or to get human attention. We must give and serve others in complete trust when the gift is in the spirit of love and the giving must be for the good in the experience itself rather than from personal benefit.
Sometimes we feel that we aren’t appreciated when our efforts aren’t recognized by other people. God knows what we’re doing. He sees what others don’t see. It pleases Him when we serve for His sake and not for man’s praise. The hand that is closed can’t receive the treasure that God wants to give.
It’s when we think no one is watching that our true allegiances are revealed. In the quietness of our alone time, we’re either exposed as people who are seeking the things of God, or we’re exposed as people who are seeking the things of the world. That’s because God knows our hearts and sees everything we do.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, p. 1291-1292)
- The New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1-Matthew & Mark. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
- Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
- Augsberger, M.S. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 24: Matthew (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982, p. 18)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- Leslie Koh, “God Knows.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- “The Right Treasure.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Anne Graham Lotz, “How to Receive Treasure.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- “How You Can Avoid a Secretly Sinful Life.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Steve Arterburn, “Belonging.” Retrieved from newlife.com
- Neil Anderson, “What We Treasure.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Bayless Conley, “A Matter of the Heart.” Retrieved from answersrbc.org