Summary: There is a way to do wonderful things for God and fade into the background. Our human nature wants to get the credit and be the focus. Our godly nature tells us otherwise. Learn how to be an active part of God’s plan by disappearing.
Where have we been so far? Chapter 5: rely and focus on the Lord, not on ourselves. Make, keep, and fix broken relationships as God fixed the broken relationship with us.
Now in Chapter 6 we move to being an active part in focusing others on God—the source of life.
What’s the use of having something cool if you can’t show it off? If we buy a new car we might like to drive it slowly in front of the neighbors just in case they might happen to come out. Maybe we invite friends over to borrow a cup of sugar and let them notice our new 65” plasma TV sitting in the living room. Maybe when we got our masters we add an MA to our email signature.
Showing off is a natural human trait. I’m sure ancient hunters would parade their kill through the village. I know some ancient cultures displayed the heads of their victims partly to show how great they were.
Showing off isn’t limited to the non-religious parts of our lives, though. Showing off how good you are was a real sport amongst the Pharisees and religious leaders in Jesus day. They wanted everyone to know how good they were, how pious, how generous, how dedicated, and how “in tune” with God they were.
Of course, none of that happens today among ministries, especially not those on Christian TV.
The truth is what’s happening inside of us is pretty amazing. Those that trust and rely on Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior are actually being transformed into the character of God. We, after all, have God as our Father and Jesus as friend and brother. We’ve got God’s ear and the power of Jesus’ name. Sometimes we love to just rattle our sword of the Spirit around so the enemy can hear us coming and quake.
In Matthew 5:16 Jesus said “…let your light shine before others that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
But too often something creeps into us that adjusts this slightly to read “…let your light shine before others so that they see your good works and give some kudos to us while glorifying God, of course.” When we focus on us rather than God we become God—not a good thing.
In this first section of chapter 6 Jesus shows us not to fall into the trap of self aggrandizement.
We should wear our relationship with God on the outside, but when we do things for God, it should almost be as if we were never there.
As we saw last week, humans are by default self focused. We want what we want and we want praise and reward for what we do. The character of God is other-focused and aimed at what can be done for others, not what benefit we get back.
When we do good things the default position is to expect praise and reward. The best way to avoid falling into that pit is to do things so people don’t know and not to expect a reward at all.
“Acts of righteousness” can simply mean “do the right thing.” Jesus points out three types of “right doing” – giving to the poor, prayer, and fasting—but this is by no means a complete list—only a way of illustrating Jesus’ main point.
The question is: what is your motive for doing something good? If we get our sense of value from the praise we get from others, then that is the only thing we will receive for what we have done.
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God commanded his people to give to the poor. The greatest example of all, of course, is Jesus, who gave to us who were poor in spirit. “Hypocrite” is a Greek word for actor—one who puts on a mask. It’s someone who acts one way on the outside but is really another on the inside. You are a hypocrite when you act as a moralist or legalist—pretending to love God on the outside, while having no love for Him on the inside.
The blowing of trumpets was not literal—but it’s a little like our saying “blowing your own horn.” How might we do this? Perhaps we seek recognition from the church for our large donation to be given to the poor of our community. Or we drop into conversation “I was so blessed when I dropped off that food basket that cost me $200 dollars.”
I’m not saying that you will never receive recognition, but to seek it runs counter to what Jesus is saying. He suggests giving in a way that you specifically do not get the credit. Now that’s selfless giving. I’ve seen examples of that in our own church, and it totally blows me away. People who give for a specific person or purpose and ask that no one know.