Another chapter of moralizing, and again I have mixed feelings. I like the message about not doing good deeds for the purpose of being seen: but, to me, the message of “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward” (Matthew 6:5) is weakened by the next verse, “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:6) Or, in other words, “you’re a hypocrite if you do good stuff to be seen by other people, unless the other people is the one person who can sentence you to eternal hellfire!”
I am probably sounding like a broken record on that regard, though; from now on, I should probably accept that yes, there are a lot of external motivators in here which range from nudges to naked threats. And I don’t have to like that, but it also won’t do me any good to spend time on that at the expense of seeing other bits that I could profit from more.
Like, for example, Matthew 6:24, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Though the following verses I’m not so sure about: “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26.) That seems to me to be at tension with the “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” bit that we saw earlier in Matthew 4:7; and, if I’m remembering a Radiolab episode properly, I think that actually birds do gather seeds for winter storage, and some have such fast metabolisms that they wouldn’t be able to survive a single night if they couldn’t remember where they left them. Still, I’ll accept the basic point that you shouldn’t be paralyzed by fear of the future: as the chapter ends, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matthew 6:34)
This post has not been revised since publication.