In the opening statements of this chapter Jesus tackles some of the more obvious ways Jews practice their religious faith… giving to needy, prayer and fasting. Jesus affirms those practices but dissects attitude and behavior. The BIG stumbling point can be found in this question. Are you doing these activities to be seen and gain recognition in the eyes of other people? Are you doing them with an intentionality to be seen by other people?
This sparks a thought about college campuses, which seem to be one plaque after another. So and so donated this building, this park, this sports field and so on. There is a smack to these gifts that people want to be noticed for their generosity.
Jesus’ point is that when we get earthy recognition for some spiritual activity, then that is our reward. There are no other spiritual benefits. The problem is that spiritual activity is supposed to have spiritual benefits… but when we do them for the recognition of other people we strip out the spiritual benefit component and it becomes a human endeavor.
The Jesus way is to do our spiritual activities quietly, meaning without undo fanfare. It is an activity between me or you and the Lord.
Enough hypotheticals… how does this speak into my life?
Worship attendance. Do I do this to get noticed or to be part of God’s family singing God’s praise? What is both my attitude and practice?
Prayer. Do I pray in ways that people notice ‘how much I pray’ or ‘how wonderful my prayers are?’ Or do I pray in ways that the Father and I can speak privately and intimately?
Giving. Do I make sure others know ‘how much I give’ or ‘when I give’ or does my giving happen without calling attention to myself?
Similar questions can be asked about fasting, service, using my spiritual gifts, especially gifts that have an upfront aspect to them, and so on.
I guess the big question is… Is my service to/for God done to honor Him or call attention to me?!
Lord, You are calling me to inspect my attitudes and actions this morning. Pious activities are good and healthy and necessary for spiritual vitality. But how I do these activities is equally, possibly even more, important than the activity themselves.
I love You, Lord, and want to live in ways that express that to You. I want to live to honor You and advance Your kingdom. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.