This morning as I was reading through the book of Matthew I was struck by Jesus’ use of the word “when” in the 6th chapter. He repeated a few phrases over and over again in a few short verses. If you’ve ever worked with children… or a stubborn adult, you know that you often have to repeat yourself a few times for them to listen to you and respond to what you have said. Jesus did the same thing for the disciples’ benefit and ours today. Notice the words that Jesus repeated in Matthew 6:2-4:
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Jesus is telling us here that we, as Christians, will give to those who are less fortunate than us. This is not some legalistic rule that we should do begrudgingly and grumbling, but an action that will naturally come out a heart that has been changed by the Almighty. I was pretty convicted by these verses and realized that there’s more that I can be doing for others, but then kept reading and saw how many more times Jesus used the word “when” in this chapter.
Verse 5, 6, and 7 say “When you pray…” and verses 16 and 17 say “When you fast…”. These 3 things (giving to the needy, praying, and fasting) are not optional for a person who is following Jesus. I don’t know about you, but for many years I had thought of these actions as only optional for when I’m feeling especially “spiritual”. That viewpoint couldn’t be more wrong. These are all acts that need to be a regular part of our walk with God. We should be fueled by love for the lost and a willingness to reach out to the needy. We should be so in love with God that we want to talk with him and praise his name through prayer. We should be willing to give things up in order to better focus on him. Don’t get me wrong, I fail at this on a daily, even hourly basis, but this is a standard that we should be constantly striving for.
Which of these “when’s” have you been neglecting? For me, it’s fasting. I haven’t been fasting since I stopped my last fast. I’m going to begin looking at my life and seeing what areas I need to adjust in order to grow closer to God. I encourage you to do the same. Look at your life and pick one of these “when’s” to work on this week and do it expecting God to do something amazing!