In the next section of the sermon (Matthew chapter 6), Jesus dishes out some stern warnings. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them.” Jesus gives three examples of how the religious folk of the day missed the point of their practices. Rather than honoring God, they did little more than honor themselves. When they gave money to the poor, they sounded a trumpet. They wanted everyone to look up like we do today when we here a fire truck’s siren. They did their praying on street corners (and probably out loud). Finally, when fasting, they would put on a “gloomy face” and ignore their personal grooming. They were the first century equivalent of that co-worker who mopes around the office does everything in his power to entice you to ask “are you O.K.” so he can cut fifteen minutes off of your lifespan by telling you how horrible his life is. In each of these instances, giving, praying, and fasting, Jesus repeats a single conclusion. “Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.”
The ability to ignore God and go our own way gives significance to our choices. If I were not morally responsible for rejecting God, my choices would mean nothing. However, since I can reject God, choosing God becomes highly significant. God respects our choices whether for Him or against Him. To do otherwise would rob us of our freedom and ultimately destroy our personhood. Without the ability to choose in this manner, we could not claim to be the image a personal God.
So, if I choose to use spiritual disciplines to gain the admiration of men, God will let me do so. However, that does not mean that He’ll agree to participate in my sham. Human admiration will become my prize, all I get, my “reward in full.” Giving away my money will just make me have less money. Praying will only exercise my vocal chords, and fasting will just make me hungry.
In true Jesus form, He doesn’t stop with highlighting the old way, life outside the kingdom. Jesus points it out and then goes on to explain what life in the kingdom will look like. First, we’ll practice spiritual disciplines for their intended purpose. They’ll become part of our partnership with God in working out our salvation. We’ll give to others because they have a need that pulls at our hearts. We’ll pray to build our relationship with God, to seek His involvement in our lives, and to exercise the authority He has given us. We’ll fast to remind ourselves of how the flesh constantly chatters about our physical needs and to attune ourselves to the voice of God. And, we’ll guard the sanctity of these practices by engaging them in secret, avoiding the possibility of abusing them.
 The point here is not to debate the meaning of the sovereignty of God. Whether we approach our decision for or against God from a perspective of (a) human will that though corrupt still retains the ability to choose God, or (b) a perspective of compete depravity that requires action from God before we can turn to him, or (c) something between these two views, Scripture is clear that we are morally responsible for a choice against God and He will judge us so.