Christianity is not for the faint of heart. Every disciple of Jesus Christ knows the warnings He gives. Often times, crowds of believers can be found pouring over the passages that declare we cannot serve two masters. The passage that strikes healthy fear in the hearts of Christians is in Matthew 7, when the Master warns that there will be many that call Him Lord; yet were never known by Him. Christianity costs full surrender. It always has. It always will.
When Christ warns against the hypocrisy mainly seen in the Pharisees in Matthew 6, many people focused on the punishment given to them. When looks of admiration and words of awe-struck wonder were all the men looked for, that was all they received. Christ looked for a heart that did every deed for the Glory of His name and found none. Their flushed cheeks filled with pride at man given praise was the only praise they would receive. Their reward was immediately paid in full. Christ would give them nothing of eternal value because they didn’t want it.
This is often times seen as a passage used to warn against passive allegiance- as it should be. However, what is often times overlooked is the tone of mourning that Christ uses as He depicts the Pharisees. His followers saw it as worthwhile judgment on puffed-up, egotistical leaders. However, Christ also meant it as a plea. A very desperate one.
The chapter warns over and over again that, “They have received they’re reward in full.” An English major will tell you very simply the word “full” means, “all encompassing, complete, or void of emptiness.” To anyone reading Matthew 6 in the English language, it only conveys that there is nothing else the Pharisaically-minded individuals would receive. It’s seen as a firm, swift judgment they brought on themselves.
The Greek word for full, however, is Apechō, which meant to “keep off, keep away, and be distant.” Yes, Christ was warning that the Pharisaical attitude left little else to be received as a reward. But He was also heart-wrenchingly mourning the fact that because they had filled their lives with their own importance, He could not commune with them and fill them as He desired to do.
When Christ spoke this Truth, He did it with a broken heart. He wanted the Pharisees to love Him the way He loved them, and therefore be completely full. Yet instant gratification filled them faster than any future reward. It filled them as air fills a balloon. They were puffed up long enough to feel as if they were larger than life. But the second the winds of life kicked up, they were blown away, and their accomplishments were proved unsteady. Christ wanted so much more for them, so much more with them. I wonder if they realized just how eternal their refusal would be?
In Truth, the Master wanted to do anything other than keep away and be distant. Yet even despite the most gut-wrenching pain, He chose to show mercy and let the Pharisees choose what they would depict as a worthwhile reward. Christ never pushed their hands in worship, nor manipulated their hearts into surrendered praise. In the end, they chose to worship themselves.
Just as Christ pled with the Pharisees, He pleads for us today. His eyes remain overwhelmed with a love that breaks through any reality, a firmness that holds fast to Justice, yet a desire for intimate relationship. Quite simply you can hear Him as He whispers, “Don’t make me walk away, don’t make me give up on you. Let me be your answer; I can’t bare the distance between you and I, Child. You hold my heart. Choose your reward wisely. Let Me make your life full in a way you never imagined.”