We seek approval from others quite a lot. As we grow older, we tend to frequently think about what others are thinking as we consider the next thing that we will say or the next thing that we will do. It might seem at times as if we are putting on a show for other people. This certainly isn’t a good way to walk through life.
On the other hand, there are those that take the “I don’t care” attitude, or at least claim to have that attitude, and suggest that they are going to do what they want to do without caring what anyone says. I can’t say that I think that this is a productive way to walk through life either. It seems more like adolescent rebellion than a productive way of walking through life.
Jesus tells us that it is important that we do good, but he says that it is also important that we do it without doing that good in front of others. For example, he says:
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. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.Matthew 6:2-3
Jesus is laying out the difference in our hearts for the reasons that we are doing good deeds. On the one hand, he says that you can give to the needy, but you do it because you want to be seen and honored by other people. These are deeds for which you will be honored here on earth amongst people. Jesus says that, if this is the reason that you are doing it, even if you are doing it as a “religious” deed, you have received all of the reward for what you have done that you are going to receive. God will give you nothing more because your motivations for doing the work were not right.
On the other hand, if we do what we so that only God can see, and we work only to receive our praise from Him and not from other people, then we will truly have a reward from our Father in heaven.
As I was reading this passage this morning, I was struck by the idea that, while Jesus is saying these things with regard to giving money to those in need, I’m pretty sure that his intention wasn’t that these rewards, and the motivation for what we are doing would be limited only to this deed.
Instead, I think it would be fair to say that this would be extended to any spiritual, or religious, deed. How often do we do things to please people around us because we believe that they will see us and consider us to be greater spiritual people? How often do we lift our hands or raise our voice, not because we are doing it for God, but instead to show ourselves to men? Let us be careful in this so that we can live to please God, not to announce our deeds with trumpets before men.