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Matthew  ◦   Chapter 6

1 "Be sure not to live your life for show — acting righteous in order to impress others. Such behavior is based on selfishness and prevents the benefit that results from living in harmony with your Father in heaven.

2 "So when helping someone in need, don't make a show or create an advertisement in order to get more people to adore you, as the politicians — both in and out of the church — do. I tell you plainly, they have received the reward for which their selfish hearts crave.3 When you help others, do it discretely — 4 not seeking to make yourself the center of attention, but because you are motivated by love; then the secret intent of your heart will be in tune with your Father, and you will receive the reward that comes from being in unity with him.

5 "And when you pray, don't be like those pretentiously pious spiritual fakers who love to pray in public to get attention for themselves. I tell you plainly, they have received the reward their selfish hearts crave.6 But when you talk with God, go to a private place where you can be genuinely intimate with your Father, and be open with him — then you will experience the reward that comes from sharing the secrets of your heart with him.7 Remember that prayer is conversation with God, as talking to your closest friend. So don't pray like pagans, who recite mantras, repeat memorized prayers over and over, or simply do all the talking, thinking that if they talk long enough, they will get what they want.8 Don't be fooled by such gimmicks. Remember that you are talking with your Father, and he knows what you need and longs to do everything for your eternal good — even before you ask him.

9 "This is an example of how to talk with God: Our Father in heaven, your character is beautiful and holy; reveal more of yourself to us.10 Let your kingdom of love come and your perfect will be done on earth just like it is in heaven.11 Provide for us our daily needs,12 and forgive us our wrongs, as we forgive those who have wronged us.13 Lead us away from temptation, and deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom of love, and the power of love, and the glory of love, forever and ever. So let it always be!

14 "For it is when you forgive others their wrongs that your heart is open to receive the forgiving and healing power your heavenly Father extends to you.15 But if you harden your heart and refuse to forgive others their sins, your heart is closed and unable to receive the forgiveness your heavenly Father extends to you.

16 "When you fast, don't publicize it like the spiritual charlatans do: they moan, groan, and use make-up to appear gaunt and to make it obvious to people that they are fasting. I tell you plainly, they have received the reward their selfish hearts desire.17 Therefore, when you fast, shower and clean yourself up18 so that no one can tell that you are fasting; but your Father in heaven knows the secrets of your heart, and you will experience the reward of his involvement in your life.

19 "Don't spend your energy trying to get earthly wealth which thieves can steal, or which decays by rust, or which merely loses value over time.20 Instead, use your energy to build a heavenly treasure of love and goodness, which cannot be stolen and will not decay.21 For whatever you treasure the most is what holds the devotion of your heart, and it is where you will want to be.

22 "Your eyes are windows into your mind. If your eyes are open wide and you are honest with the evidence, your mind will be filled with light and truth.23 But if you view things through jaded eyes, tainted with selfishness, then you will distort the evidence and your mind will be darkened; then, even the light that enters will be warped into greater self-deception, and the darkness will be great!

24 "No one can be loyal and true to two antagonistic principles: If you embrace selfishness, you will hate selflessness; and if you love beneficence, you will hate greed. You cannot serve both the God of love and the god of money.

25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about how the future will turn out or where your next meal will come from, or about what you will wear. Life is not built to operate on the survival-of-the-fittest principle — constantly seeking to get food for yourself, or the latest clothes.26 Look at the birds: they don't worry about planting, or harvest time, or storing food in barns, because your heavenly Father is constantly giving of himself to provide for them. Are you not much more valuable than the birds?27 Who of you, by worrying, has improved their life or added even a single hour to it?

28 "Why waste energy worrying about your clothes? Look at the lilies of the field: they don't sew or weave,29 yet I tell you that Solomon in his most magnificent robes was not dressed as one of these.30 If that is how God clothes the grass in the field, which is here today and gone tomorrow, will he not do much more for you? Oh, how you trust him so little!31 Stop worrying all the time, saying, 'Oh, where will we get groceries? What is there to drink? What will we wear?'32 The pagans, who don't know God, are constantly preoccupied with getting for self, seeking to survive at all costs. But your heavenly Father knows all your needs and longs to provide them. He wants you to embrace his kingdom of giving,33 so seek first to live in harmony with God's kingdom of giving and all its righteousness, and all your needs will be met as well.34 Stop worrying about how the future will turn out, don't weigh yourselves down with imaginary future problems that haven't even happened yet, and trust God with your future.