Daily readings: Genesis 15-16, Proverbs 2, Matthew 6
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” –Matthew 6:1
Throughout my life as a Christian I have always struggled a bit with what appears to be a direct contradiction in from Jesus in Matthew 5 and Matthew 6. It would appear here that Jesus would want us to be discreet about our faith and yet in yesterday’s readings we read quite the opposite:
“Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
So what is the story? Are we called to do all of these things in secret or are we called to be a lamp on a stand allowing others to see our good deeds to give glory to our Father in Heaven?
Truthfully, in the past I have always just kind of shrugged my shoulders at this apparent contradiction and moved on. However, today it really hit me that this is an incredibly important issue for Christians in the marketplace and one that we should really dig into and attempt to understand.
What was Jesus going for here?
After reading through the verses today several times and really asking God for guidance on this apparent contradiction something struck me. It is all a question of your motive.
In each of his warnings that follow his initial statement in Matthew 6, when you slow down your reading of the passage, it all centers on the where your heart is at towards why you are doing what you are doing.
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others.”
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.”
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting.”
Compare this to the motive that Jesus encourages us to have in Matthew 5:
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Quite the difference! It starts with the question: Why are you truly doing what you are doing? Are you doing good deeds, giving to the poor, praying, volunteering your time, or fasting to give glory to God and to point others to Jesus or are you doing it so that you will be seen by others? Are you more focused on how you will be perceived as a result of you actions or how others will view Jesus as a result of your actions?
God wants us to be a lamp on a stand. He just wants the light from that lamp to shine on him and not back on ourselves. He wants people to see us doing all of these things so that they might “glorify your Father in Heaven” and not so that they might glorify us for being such great Christians.
It is all about motives.
So when you find yourself wanting to make it about you, the answer is not to put your lamp back under the bowl. That is what the enemy wants. The answer is to shift your heart and give the glory back to God.
He is worthy.
Thought to ponder
When in my life do I most struggle in making it all about me when it should be all about God? How can I be a lamp on a stand for others but with humility?