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"Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by
them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
 "When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may
be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
 "But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right
hand is doing  that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who
sees in secret will repay you.
 "And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they
love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in
order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in
full.  "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you
have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father
who sees in secret will repay you.  "And when you are praying, do not
use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they
will be heard for their many words.  "Therefore do not be like them;
for your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him.  "Pray, then,
in this way:
'Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.  'Thy kingdom
come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.  'Give us this
day our daily bread.  'And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven
our debtors.  'And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from
evil. [For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
Amen.]'  "For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly
Father will also forgive you.  "But if you do not forgive men, then
your Father will not forgive your transgressions.  "And whenever you
fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect
their appearance in order to be seen fasting by men. Truly I say to you,
they have their reward in full.  "But you, when you fast, anoint your
head, and wash your face  so that you may not be seen fasting by men,
but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret
will repay you.
Immediately after Jesus set the standard for the Christian's behavior
in Matthew 5:13-48, He emphasizes the importance of authenticity in the
Christian's lifestyle in Matthew 6:1-18. It isn't good enough to live right,
Jesus calls His followers to authentic living. Not the kind of righteousness
religious men demonstrate, but a genuine, authentic righteousness.
He contrasts self righteousness with authentic righteousness in this
passage. There is a difference between prayer for show and heartfelt prayer.
There is a difference between heartfelt stewardship and giving to get men's
recognition. And there is a difference between keeping religious vows like
fasting as a "religious obligation" and as a result of an authentic relationship
Does authenticity matter? William Shatner, forever etched in the public
mind as the futuristic Captain James T. Kirk of Star Trek is the highly
visible spokesman for Priceline.com, he admits, "The truth of the matter
is that I don't know how to operate a computer." Shatner says he has been
involved in some Internet chats, but "I had someone typing my answers for
me. I'm a second-hand user of technology. I'm not a fan." (Http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
Does it matter to you that Shatner is the spokersperson for something he
knows nothing about?
How do you spot real authenticity? Sometimes a forgery is easy to spot.
Like the time Western Union became suspicious of a young dockworker who
tried to cash a check made out to "Roadway Express," a shipping company
in Dallas. When asked for an ID, the 18-year-old produced an ID with the
name Mr. "Roadway V. Express."
The manager at Western Union
asked him to wait while he got him his money. He went in the back and called
The manager simply sensed
something was wrong. And he was right. Authenticity isn't always easy to
get a grip on and explain, but most people have a real sense when someone
isn't being authentic.
An authentic person will
be one with obvious integrity.
What is integrity? To a builder,
integrity means strength. To an ethicist, the word means consistency. To
politicians, integrity means . . . well, we won't go there. What does the
word mean to you?
Daniel was a man of integrity.
He was so consistent, even his enemies could predict what he would do and
used it to their advantage. Daniel 6:4 NLT says, "Then the other administrators
and princes began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling
his affairs, but they couldn't find anything to criticize. He was faithful
and honest and always responsible."
Daniel's enemies decided
the only way they could accuse him was by setting a trap. They convinced
the King to sign a law that no one could pray to anyone but the King alone.
Flattered, the King gladly signed the law without thinking how it would
affect his friend Daniel.
Daniel's enemies knew he
would break the law before he would pray to anyone other than the God of
Israel. They spied on him, and sure enough, at the appointed hour for prayer
he faced Jerusalem and prayed, just like he did every day. They caught
him "in the very act" of prayer and ratted him out to the King.
Why did they know he would
defy the King's law? Because Daniel was a man of integrity. He was consistent
and strong. Daniel didn't pray to show his integrity; he prayed because
of his integrity.
Does authenticity mean a
person doesn't fail? Is it possible for a person to ever be totally pure?
If we will all fail, what does an authentic believer do when they fail?
King David was a man of contradictions.
He was a hard working man who was equally comfortable playing a musical
instrument or fighting in a war. He was a tender-hearted poet, with musical
talents that could soothe the souls of his listeners. He was a "man after
God's own heart"-- a spiritual man.
Don't think that David was
a softie. He was a warrior without peer. The people said of him: "Saul
has killed his thousands, but David his ten thousands." Even the smallest
child in a Sunday School class can tell the story of David defeating Goliath.
David a strong man, a leader
of men, a man that anyone would feel safe walking beside. David was a spiritual
man who penned many beautiful psalms that were sung in his day and read
in ours. Yet, David had a severe moral lapse.
It was the time of year when
Kings lead their troops to war, but David was no where to be found. Instead
of assuming his place in front of his troops, he stayed at the palace.
One night while walking around the palace roof, he spotted a beautiful
woman taking a bath. Instead of turning his head and walking away, he stayed
Later, he sent for her and
consummated his sin with her in the palace. She became pregnant. He tried
to cover it up, even resorting to murder, but to no avail.
His sin began when he was
in the wrong place at the wrong time. Why wasn't he at work where he belonged?
Why didn't he run when he was tempted? Why didn't he show self control
and remain righteous?
David's sin became a defining
moment in his life. It is too bad that he didn't finish his reign as strong
as he started. He could defeat countless Philistines in battle, but was
overcome by the seduction of a solitary woman.
When David's sin found him
out, he didn't cover it up. He brought it out in the open. As an authentic
believer, he confessed his sin and cried for mercy.
In Psalm 51:2-7 David said,
"Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.  For
I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me.  Against Thee,
Thee only, I have sinned, And done what is evil in Thy sight, So that Thou
art justified when Thou dost speak, And blameless when Thou dost judge.
 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived
me.  Behold, Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being, And in the
hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom.  Purify me with hyssop, and
I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Authenticity does not imply
perfection. It is a lifestyle of consistency that doesn't try to hide imperfections.
It is a lifestyle that lives for the approval of God, not of men.
The things Jesus discusses
in this passage: prayer, giving and fasting, are deeply personal matters.
They are the things deeply devoted followers of Christ do because of their
faith, not to impress others. Jesus does not prohibit public prayer, giving
or fasting here, but he does warn the believer against doing any of those
things for man's approval.
I love to listen to the prayers
of new believers. They lack the rhythm or flow of a seasoned Christian.
But what they lack in beauty, they make up in sincerity. They are the kind
of prayers that touch heaven, even if they don't impress people on earth.
An authentic Christian lives
her life before God, not man. Her goal is to please her heavenly father,
not impress her friends.