Monday 13 Sept 2021

Title: When Not to Wear a Mask.
By: Ong Hwee Soo

Matthew 6:1-4

In my Devotional on 23 August, entitled ‘Soli Deo Gloria’, we have seen in this text, Jesus emphasizing that motive is all that matters when doing good works.

Public acts of obedience are virtuous and honourable but if they are performed solely for the sake of public acclaim, there will be no reward from God (v 1). Almsgiving (v 2) is one of the Jewish Pillars of Piety, the other two being prayer (v 7) and fasting (v 16).

The religious leaders, particularly the Pharisees, gave to the needy in order to be praised by the people (v 2). In this verse, Jesus uses the word “hypocrites” to describe them. The original Greek word, ‘hypokrites’ referred to theatre actors who wore masks to play various characters in a drama.

Jesus censured these religious leaders for a particular form of hypocrisy: doing the right thing with the wrong motive. The word ‘hypocrite’ is used 16 times in the Matthew Gospel, out of the 27 times in the New Testament, underlining Matthew’s theme of not wearing a mask in religious observances (especially Chapter 23), rather practicing true faith. In this text, it characterizes a person whose actions are intended to impress others (v 1-3, 16-18); whose focus is on the outward trappings of religion rather than the inward issues of the heart (v16), and whose spiritual verbosity conceals impure motives (v 5,7). In Matthew 6, the hypocrite stands in contrast with the person of genuine faith, whose relationship with God is “in secret” (v 4, 6, 18).

The phrase “in secret” is repeated four times in Matthew 6, underpinning the point that our relationship with God is a deeply personal communion, a bonding of our hearts to Him. Religion is not a matter of outward display.

Back to the Pharisees – the irony is that they had received their reward of public and professional admiration, and that was all the reward they would ever receive. Such fleeting human adulation precludes satisfaction of the deepest longing of the human heart to stand approved by God in heaven who sees in secret.

Charity, prayer and fasting are supposed to be worshipful acts rendered to God, never a show of self-righteousness to gain sycophancy. When Jesus admonishes, “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (v 3), He is highlighting that our motives for giving to God and to others must be pure.

In this passage, Jesus intends for us to understand that in His kingdom, relationship with God must be real and intimate, unlike the ‘playacting’ of the hypocrites, who perform their religious responsibilities to procure popular applause.

If you have not placed your personal trust in Jesus, may I encourage you to come to Christ simply by faith, warts and all, without a mask. Indeed, you don’t have to hide or run from God, instead you can run to Him for help and forgiveness. Certainly, Christ forgives you of your past, no matter how dark it might have been, and gives you a new life.

Since religion is not about externalities, genuine faith is not about wearing a saccharine smile while in a state of spiritual dissatisfaction. It is not about putting on our Sunday best, so our public persona masks the real situation of your private spiritual life.

Dear God, forgive us if we have covered our ‘wrinkles’ by our ‘cosmetic’ subterfuges. Help us, Lord, come to You completely unmasked, and Live the Life of Genuine Faith . Amen.


【马太福音 6:1-4】

在我 8 月 23 日题为 “唯独上帝的荣耀” 的灵修中,我们在这段文字中看到,耶稣强调动机是做善事的关键。

公开的服从行为是有德行且是尊贵的,但如果只是为了公众的赞誉而这样做,就不会得到上帝的奖赏(第 1 节)。施舍 (第2节) 是犹太虔诚的支柱之一,另外两个是祈祷 (第7节) 和禁食 (笫16节)。

宗教领袖,尤其是法利赛人,施舍穷人是为了得到百姓的称赞(第 2 节)。在这节经文中,耶稣用 “假冒为善”(hypocrites)这个词来形容他们。最初的希腊词 “伪善者”(hypokrites)指的是戴着面具在戏剧中扮演各种角色的戏剧演员。

耶稣谴责这些宗教领袖的特殊形式的虚伪:以错误的动机做正确的事。 “假冒为善”(hypocrites)这个词在新约中使用了 27 次,其中在马太福音中使用了 16 次,强调了 马太的主题在宗教仪式中不戴面具(尤其是第 23 章),而是实践真正的信仰。 在这篇文章中,它描述了一个人的行为是为了给他人留下好印象( 1-3节, 16-18节);他们的重点是宗教的外在装饰而不是内在的问题(第 16 节),其属灵的华丽虚饰掩盖了不纯的动机(第 5,7 节)。在马太福音第 6 章,假冒为善的人与真正有信心的人形成对比,他们与上帝的关系是 “在暗中的”(第 4、6、18 节)。

“在暗中” 一词在马太福音第 6 章重复了四次,这强调了我们与上帝的关系是一种深刻的个人交流,是我们的心与祂联系在一起。信仰不是外在的表现。

回到法利赛人 – 讽刺的是,他们已获得了公众和专业上的赞赏,而这就是他们所能获得的全部奖赏。人类这种转瞬即逝的奉承无法满足人心最深切的渴望,即得到在天上暗中察看的上帝的认可。

施舍、祈祷和禁食应该是对上帝的崇拜行为,而不是表现自以为义来获得谄媚。当耶稣告诫 “不要叫左手知道右手所作的”(第 3 节)时,祂强调我们献给上帝和给予他人的动机必须是纯洁的。

在这段经文中,耶稣想让我们明白,在祂的国度里,与上帝的关系必须是真实而亲密的,不像假冒为善的人那样 “演戏”,他们履行宗教职责以赢得民众的掌声。



亲爱的上帝,如果我们用 “化妆品” 的诡计掩盖了我们的 “皱纹”,请原谅我们。帮助我们,主,完全揭开面具来到祢面前,并 活出真正信仰的生命。阿们。