Read Matthew 5:21-42 and 6:1-18
As a parent I sometimes use negative language to correct my children. “Don’t yell, don’t hit your brother, don’t talk back” and so on. If all I focus on is what I don’t want my children to do, though, I am not equipping them well. It’s important to also teach them what to do, I remind myself. Otherwise I’m only giving them half of what they need. “Talk in a normal tone of voice at the dinner table, share your toys with your brother, use ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’”
In this section of Matthew, we see Jesus teaching about the ethics of the kingdom of God. He begins by teaching on public sins that should not be committed, or the “don’ts,” you might call them. We must avoid wrong thoughts and motives in addition to wrong actions. It’s not just “thou shalt not murder,” it’s also “thou shalt not get too angry or angry about the wrong thing.”
Then Jesus transitions to the “dos.” The “dos” are quite different from the “don’ts” in that they are mostly done in private. It’s assumed that we’ll give to the needy: “When you give to the needy…” but Jesus wants to emphasize that we should do so to help, not to look good in front of others. Jesus again addresses the motives behind the “dos” as being very important.
God is not only concerned with what we “don’t” do but with what we do “do,” too! He considers our thoughts, feelings, and mind when we do good things, too. Additionally, God is not only concerned about what others are able to see, but about our private lives as well. Our public lives and our private lives matter to God.
As we consider how we live out our Christian life, and how we might teach and help those around us, may we consider both what we shouldn’t be doing and what we should be doing. And may we always examine our spirit and motivations to ensure that we are living in a way pleasing to the Lord.
Lord, give me strength today to resist temptation and sin. But Lord, please give me strength to live the way you want me to too. Help me to love others, be kind, and give of myself with no expectation of praise or attention.