As JESUS is teaching those who want to know more about Him how to have a relationship with Him, He is speaking to fishermen who had followed Him literally straight off their boats. These disciples are among many folks from near and far who had heard about His miracles. And He uses words that had their origins as fishing terms. Being careful is from being cautious how you dock the boat. Doing or performing or practicing righteousness has its roots in unloading cargo from a ship onto the dock for delivery. So let’s read Matthew 6:1 in those terms.
In our translations it’s about being careful how we behave as Christians in front of others so GOD doesn’t zap us for being prideful. But if we read the background of the language and the context of the listeners into it, it becomes much deeper.
Imagine that you’re a fisherman hired to catch fish. You do a great job and have a load of fish but must be careful where you dock the ship. If you dock at the wrong place you won’t be where the person who hired you agreed to meet you. You’ve got to be careful about how you dock the boat so you don’t lose the catch or damage the boat. And you may still sell the fish to someone but it won’t be the greater reward you could have received which was more than you realized.
JESUS is fulfilling His earlier promise to Peter, Andrew, James and John the fishermen to make them fishermen for human hearts and minds. He has already explained that they will be changed from the inside out. Now He is saying that they don’t make themselves fishermen but as He makes them fishermen for hearts and minds naturally they must be careful how they dock their boats. They must be careful how they show the changes GOD is making in them. If they don’t act wisely they will ruin their opportunity to reach people. They will not have the blessings they were intended to have, more than they could have imagined, if they are perceived as no different from others or so different that they are no longer living as the changed children of GOD but as strangers to Him.
It’s all about pulling into port to bless others in the power of GOD the Holy Spirit, resulting from our belonging to JESUS, GOD the Son, to the Glory of GOD the Father. And His joy is our reward.
For the rest of Matthew 6, and until chapter 8, JESUS gives specific examples of how to maneuver in various tides of life to dock without damage to our relationship with GOD and others in His Name.
“Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them: else ye have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 6:1 ASV
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