A person who loves God eagerly serves Him with acts of righteousness, fulfilling His commandments, as expressions of that love. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). However, Yeshua warned His disciples not to make a show out of their acts of righteousness. He wanted them to focus their efforts on the love of God, not the love of attention. Yeshua chose three specific acts of righteousness to illustrate the point: charity, prayer, and fasting. The three examples correspond to the three spheres of love toward God—heart, soul, and might:
Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
Prayer = Heart
Fasting = Soul
Charity = Might
Prayer = Heart: Biblical Hebrew uses the word “heart” the way that English speakers use the word “mind.” Prayer issues from a man’s heart as the Master said, “The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matthew 12:34). Judaism refers to prayer as the service of the heart:
It has been taught: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart.” What is the service of the heart? You must admit, prayer is the service of the heart. (b.Ta’anit 2a).
Fasting = Soul: Biblical Hebrew uses the word “soul” to refer to man’s life, vitality, and person. The Bible speaks of fasting as “humbling” or “afflicting” one’s soul.
Charity = Might: The rabbis interpreted “your might” in Deuteronomy 6:5 as “your wealth” (b.Pesachim 25a). In Judaism, to love God “with all your might” requires a man to use his wealth to give generously to the poor and to the things of the LORD
Yeshua taught His disciples to conduct themselves discreetly and modestly. He warned them against ostentatious displays of piety. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them,” He said (Matthew 6:1). Of course, He expected His disciples to fast, to pray, and to give generously to charity, but He warned them against doing so with improper motives. If they practiced acts of righteousness for the sake of social prestige, they would ultimately find their charity, prayers, and fasting detrimental to their spiritual health. A man who takes on religious duties and disciplines only for the sake of earning the respect and esteem of men finds no favor from God for His efforts. He is acting only for the sake of the love of men and their praise, not for the love of God.
Excerpts from FFOZ