Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Immediately after the verses above, Jesus talks about the hypocritical ways of the Pharisees. He spoke of their love of being seen doing good deeds, praying in public and their need to let everyone know they were fasting. When we take Matthew 6:1-34 into context, it is easy to see that Jesus' message to us is to place our trust in God alone. He is our treasure.
Our relationship with God should be more valuable to us than any other relationship. The Pharisees emphasized what the people saw them doing - good deeds, praying in public and fasting. They wanted the people to see how great they were. Their treasure was to receive admiration and praise from others. Their reputations were more important to them than their relationship with God. So the verse above isn't just above money. It's about what we value most in this life - our jobs, our reputations, our appearance, our "things," our family or friends.
So how do we "lay up" treasures in heaven? What should those treasures look like? They should include daily time in the Word of God because time spent reading God's Word is well-invested. We get to know Him through His Word, and our relationship grows and deepens. We learn how to abide in Him, and through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, He abides in us. And that is our greatest treasure.
Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
Matthew 6:16-18, NKJV
Did you ever wonder who the hypocrites were that Jesus was talking about or why he called them hypocrites? In most cases, he was talking about the Pharisees. There were regular fast times (Leviticus 16:29-31). However, the Pharisees added two fast days God did not command. Monday and Thursday were designated to allow for public display and piety. Luke 18:9-14 even mentions these two days of fasting. The Pharisees regarded the practice of fasting as praiseworthy and appeared in the synagogues with sad looks on their faces and wearing mourning garb. They did this to show the people that their “righteousness” and piety were far superior to everyone else.
Read Matthew 6:9-13
Continuing with Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, we now come to the most famous prayer in the Bible - The Lord's Prayer. Jesus has just explained that we are not to be like the hypocrites who make a great show of the fact they are praying to God (Matthew 6:5) and encourages us to pray to God privately. While there are many examples of how Jesus prayed (Matthew 26:39, Mark 1:35, John 17), the Lord's Prayer gives us a template for the correct way to approach God and what our prayers should look like. If you are new to prayer The Lord's Prayer is a good example to follow. But, as you grow in your faith so will your prayers and your relationship with God. You will find that you are praying "without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and your prayers will be more specific. But the basic approach to prayer that Jesus' gives us in Matthew 6:9-13 is a good one to follow.
Read Matthew 6:5-8
Did you know that the word hypocrite in Greek means an actor, stage player or pretender? In other words, someone is pretending to be what they are not. In the matter of prayer, Jesus said these types of people, "Love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men" (Matthew 6:5). In other words, they made a show of praying to God so that people would think they were righteous. But Jesus said, "When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly" (Matthew 6:6). Does this mean that all public prayer is wrong? Not at all. It is clear from scripture that corporate prayer was practised (Acts 12:12). But to understand what was going on, we need to look at the culture of the day behind Jesus' statements.
“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men,
In Matthew 5:16, Jesus said, "Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Yet, in the verses above, it seems Jesus contradicts himself by telling us to do our charitable deeds in secret. So what did he mean? Was he contradicting himself? Not at all! In fact, when we read the verses above in context, we can see they come after Jesus has discussed loving our enemies. The main reason he admonishes us to love our enemies is the same reason he tells us to be a light to the world – so that others may see our good works and glorify God. It is the intent of the heart that is the message here. If you are doing good deeds to make people think better of you, you are doing them for the wrong reasons. If you volunteer to help those less fortunate because it looks good on your resume, your heart is in the wrong place. Jesus would call you a hypocrite because you want praise from others for your volunteer work.