Youth Online Bible Study week 9

Read Matthew 6:1-18.

Jesus takes some time in the middle of His Sermon on the Mount to warn against certain ways of practicing our faith, starting with the overall warning in verse 1: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people…”

It’s an easy trap to fall into. We want to know that we fit in, that we belong, even at church. So we make sure we are seen when we attend. We put money in the offering plate partially because the usher is looking at us as he passes it down the row. We mouth the words of the prayer even if we don’t say them.

My personal favorite is how everyone who takes time off from technology or social media makes sure to post about it first. I get caught up in all of it, too. My husband and I give online, so I always feel a tiny bit guilty during the offering in worship. I want to make sure I use the “right” words when I lead prayers.

This section is mostly a list of Don’ts: Don’t practice good deeds in front of others. Don’t brag about giving to the needy. Don’t pray out in public. Don’t use flowery words when you pray. Don’t make a show that you are fasting. But what if we reframed it as this: keep your relationship with God between you and Him. Because that’s the point of these things – giving to others, prayer, and fasting are all spiritual disciplines, intended primarily to draw us closer to our heavenly Father. When we twist them into methods of improving our earthly relationships, we’ve missed the point entirely.

Verses 9-13 is my favorite section of this passage, where Jesus gives us the words we speak every Sunday in churches all over the world: the Lord’s Prayer. We have a beautiful outline of the way to pray:

  1. The Father’s Character (Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name)
  2. The Father’s Kingdom (Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven)
  3. The Father’s Provision (Give us this day our daily bread)
  4. The Father’s Forgiveness (and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors)
  5. The Father’s Guidance (And lead us not into temptation)
  6. The Father’s Protection (but deliver us from evil)

These six pieces come from a book by Mike Breen, entitled Building a Discipling Culture. The chapter on the Lord’s Prayer was my favorite in the book and has stuck with me ever since.

Dig deeper:

  • Isaiah shares some of God’s position on fasting in chapter 58, particularly verses 4-8. The point of fasting from something, whether food or social media or anything else, is to refocus ourselves on God and caring for those in need. What are some ways you might practice fasting as a spiritual discipline?
  • Grab your Small Catechism and re-read the section on the Lord’s Prayer. Are there any new insights you have today that you missed when you studied it in middle school?
  • When you read about the needy in this chapter, what images come to your mind? How might the Holy Spirit be using these images to spur you to action on behalf of someone in need?