Secret Garden

Imagine yourself standing in the middle of a garden that you have worked all spring to cultivate. You have beautiful roses of red, yellow, white, and pink growing throughout. You have hyacinths of blue and purple in various portions. Then, there are the boxwoods in each corner to set off the property and give the garden a frame. There are hydrangeas flanked by lilacs planted on one side. And on the other side, you have the weigela shrubs blooming. And then right in the center you have the butterfly bush. It’s beauty lies in the visitors – butterflies of various colors and types. You have decided to put to wrought iron benches on either side so that you can sit in the garden and enjoy what you have helped to create.

Now, there are many reasons to tend to a garden. Some do it to show off just how beautiful the plants and flowers are on their property. They are the ones that want others to look with admiration at how special their grounds are as though they should be envied. Some do it to show off their skills as a gardener. They are looking for praise from others for the hard work that they put in to their garden. Then there are some that tend to their garden for the sheer enjoyment of working with the earth and plants, faithfully watering them and taking out the weeds. They are not looking for praise and admiration. They simply enjoy “piddling around,” meaning just delighting in being in the garden. That is where Jesus says we are to get the most out of our relationship with Him. The simple joy of being present with Him and the pleasure of His companionship. This “simple” joy is more than that. It is amazing, wonderful, powerful, beautiful, and important.

The book of Matthew in the Bible has many truths that Jesus taught, including acts of worship and service to Him. And in this portion of my Secret Garden with God, we can see the different sets of flowers called giving, praying, and fasting. These truths are taught to us in chapter 6. In Matthew 6:1, it says:

"Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven."

Then, Jesus goes on to teach this principle using examples of how a person’s faith can be expressed in a hypocritical way when giving to the needy, praying, and fasting. It’s kind of a “what not to do” versus “what to do” kind of teaching.

So, beginning with giving to the needy, He says, “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing (v3).” How can we do that? We know what both our hands are doing at the same time. Well, this is a Hebrew idiom of true humility meaning don’t draw attention to what you are doing. Just do it for your own enjoyment of pleasing God. He pointed out to us how the “hypocrites” gave to the needy. They would blow trumpets under the pretext of calling the poor, though with no other design than to gratify themselves by giving alms in public. They were seeking out public and professional acclaim, but that was all the reward they would ever receive. However, to achieve the real reward of our deep longing in our souls, the approval of our Father in heaven who sees in secret is why we give, not for human approval.

Moving on to prayer, Jesus tells us that the hypocrite likes to stand in the public areas and pray aloud. It is absolutely okay to pray in public aloud, but again it is about the motivation behind our actions that Jesus is pointing out. The hypocrites are praying aloud for recognition as ‘holy men of God’, but that is all they will receive as reward. Our true reward and motivation should be placed on God and our relationship with Him. Our true fulfillment lies in our spirit communing with and enjoying God. The point of prayer is not the words said out of our mouths, but what is flowing from our hearts to and from God.

So Jesus gives His disciples – and by extension to us – what is called “The Lord’s Prayer” in today’s verbiage. He starts out with identifying the God we are talking to. The pagans of that day used to say the names of a bunch of different gods in hopes that one of them would answer. But we know that the True God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is “Our Father in heaven” which indicates that God is not only majestic and holy, but He is also personal and loving. The first line of this model prayer is a statement of praise and a commitment to honor God’s holy name. He then moves on to “Your Kingdom come,” which is a reference to God’s spiritual reign. This was announced in the covenant with Abraham, is present in Christ’s reign in believers’ hearts, and will be complete when all evil is destroyed and God establishes the new heaven and earth (Revelation 21:1).

Knowing Who we are talking to and what we are communicating is absolutely key to establishing our motivation behind what we are doing. It is the “why” of our actions. Why are we giving? Why are we praying? And finally, as Jesus continues teaching, why are we fasting?

In the final portion of this section of teaching, He says, “when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret (vs17-18).” The hypocrites would walk around in public with gloomy, sour faces covered in ash and wearing sackcloth to announce to others that they were ‘oh so holy and pious.’ They were looking for others to revere them and admire them for their supposed devotion to God. However, their hearts weren’t turned to God. They were focused on themselves. Jesus was teaching His disciples (and us) to fast as a spiritual disciple for their own practice of turning their hearts to God. It was used as a way of self-discipline, reminds us that we can live with a lot less, and helps us appreciate God’s gifts.

Jesus was not condemning fasting, but hypocrisy. In this case, hypocrites were using fasting to gain public approval. However, the secret of reward in fasting is found at the end of verse 18. It says, “your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” It is the Father that we are to direct all that we say and do to. He is the focus of our everything. Public acts of obedience are valuable and honorable, but if they are done merely for the sake of public recognition, there will be no reward from God. The “why” behind what we do is what Jesus is teaching here.

In these three instances of spiritual discipline (the flowers in our Secret Garden), Jesus is teaching us that our motivation should be directly in line with our relationship with Our Heavenly Father. He was showing us how to adopt spiritual disciplines for the right reasons, not from a selfish desire for praise from people. Why are we tending our Secret Garden? In what we say and do, let us remember the “why” behind the “what”.

Gotta go fill up my cup…..

Published by Coffee With Candee

I am married and I have four sons that are my whole world. I have a relationship with God through Jesus. Oh, and I have a blood cancer that has no known cure as of yet called Multiple Myeloma. Go Coffee!!!

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