The three Acts of Righteousness in Matthew 6 contain three triplicates. Not a coincidence if you ask me. When Jesus says anything once, listen. If He says it twice, take heed. But if it’s recorded three times, then mark it on the top of your “To Know” list.
Let’s look quickly at the triplicates.
It is important to note that Jesus used ‘when ’ and not ‘if’. Notice He used when three times (verses 2, 5, 16). Even more important, He said ‘you’ each time. We have no excuse not to give, pray, and fast.
The warning “I tell you the truth they have received their reward in full” is given three times: verses 2, 5, 16.
The promise for a reward, “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” is spoken three times: verses 4, 6, 18.
The repetition clearly ties the three acts together. There should be no separation from when you give, pray, and fast. My paraphrase goes like this…
When you pray (feast on me) then fast from the things of this world by giving your excess to the poor for I am watching and will bless your every act of righteousness.
Repeat three times and you have it!
When Jesus spoke these words, He spoke for people of all generations. We face the same heart issues as Isaiah addressed with his people. As I compare Isaiah 58 with Matthew 6, consider how it applies to your own heart.
Here is what each generation was doing wrong:
- Verse 2-3: People seem eager to know His ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of God; seem eager for God to come near them.
- Verse 3: they do as please, exploit all workers, their fasting ends in quarreling and strife and striking each other with wicked fists,
- Verse 2: announcing their giving before men with trumpets on the streets to be honored by men
- Verse 5: hypocrites love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men
- Verse 7: kept on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words
- Verse 16: looked somber as the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting
Here is how to do it right:
- Verse 6: loose the chains of injustice, untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, break every yoke, to share your food with the hungry, to provide the poor wanderer with shelter, to clothe the naked, to take care of your own family
- Verse 9: IF you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, IF you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed
- Verse 3: do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give in secret
- Verse 6: go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen
- Verse 9-13: Pray like this…
- Verse 17: put oil on your head and wash your face so that I t will not be obvious to men that you are fasting and only to your Father who is unseen
He even record the rewards of a right heart:
- Verse 8: then your light will break forth like the dawn and your healing will quickly appear, then your righteousness will go before you and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help and he will say: Here am I.
- Verse 10: then your light will shine in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strength your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and raise up the age old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
- Verse 14: if you forgive men when they sin against you, your Father will also forgive you
- Verses 4, 6, 18
As I merge these chapters, I see God saying, “If your hearts are not truly seeking me in prayer, then your eyes are not open to the needs of others, therefore your ‘fasting’ is in vain. In your arrogance you claim I am not seeing your righteous acts, but there are no righteous acts apart from feasting on me (prayer) giving to others and abstaining from things of this world. You cannot fast as you do today and expect me to hear when you pray. The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”