I get these by e-mail on a daily bases, and feel that this one holds special meaning, especially for me.
“Doing Right Things for Wrong Reasons”
“Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Matthew 6:1
This is one of those places in the Bible that should carry a warning label, “Beware: Tough Love Ahead.” On the one hand, Jesus encourages me to help others, and perform “random acts of kindness;” on the other, I feel like He is beating me up because doing good deeds makes me feel so good that I want to do it over and over again. How do I balance the command to do good works with doing those things for all the right reasons? Aren’t you just a little bit motivated to do it again when someone else recognizes you for your good deeds? Yeah, unfortunately, so am I.
As we tackle Matthew 6, there are two words which need our attention.
1. Seen, v. 1 – The Greek word looks like this: “theatomi.” Carve out the first five letters and what English word/s does it look like? If you said “theater,” or “theatrical” you would be correct! It is warning us not to be like an actor on a stage as if we are putting on an exhibition.
2. Hypocrite, vv. 2, 5, 16 – In classical Greek, it was used to refer to an actor on a stage that masks his real identity and assumes a role. This person plays a part that isn’t the truth about his life. He assumes an identity which is other than genuine.
A school was recently in the news because an anonymous donor donated a gift of millions of dollars. Is that what Jesus meant by “so that your giving may be done in secret?” Yes! But the Jews sounded the trumpets so that everyone would know when they practiced their alms-giving. You and I know that hypocrisy exists everywhere, in our families, among our neighbors, in congress, and even among the most religious people we know. It is hypocritical to live a phony lifestyle, pretending to be one thing, but deep down where no one sees but you and God there is something else going on. When this hypocrisy doctrine was put into practice in the fledgling church (Acts 5) it reflected the serious relationship between our giving habits and God’s intolerance of our hypocritical ways. Ananias and Sapphira pretended to give a certain amount to the fellowship, but they had actually held back a portion for themselves. Nothing would have been wrong with keeping something for themselves had they not lied about it. But their phony commitment ended in their deaths.
Beloved, this is not just about our money. Jesus encourages us to practice good stewardship of all our resources: money, talents, spiritual gifts, time, etc. And He wants others to see and notice that someone cares enough about their needs to give sacrificially. But our generosity should be practiced so that the world will glorify God, not that they will be impressed with us! If we give because we desire the praise of man, our hypocritical motive will result in the fleeting satisfaction that someone noticed. But if we are stripped of phony, self-righteousness in our lifestyle, our eternal reward will far outlive the applause of the world.
GospeLines Prayer: Father, as a writer, show me the difference between being motivated by hypocrisy and having the desire to hear words of encouragement from the audience. I disdain the thought of seeking the praise of the world, but when I get feedback from readers, I know that I have at least scratched where it itches instead of being a constant irritation that will only alienate a fragile Christian. Give me greater patience and love for those who join me in this struggle to distance ourselves from phony living and counterfeit Christianity. Amen and amen.
I hope this was as inspiring to you as it was to me.
Take care and I shall post another time.