Why do you do things? Do you do things just because it’s the loving thing to do? Can we really honestly say that is our only motivation? To be honest I kind of wonder if it is. I wonder that not because I think we’re all horrible people who have horrible motives. I wonder that because of the warnings we see in Scripture about it. Over and over our Lord Jesus tells us to be aware of why we do things.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them. For then you will have the reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1)
In verse two he says, “When you give to the needy sound, no trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly I say to you, they received their reward.” In verse five, he warns us, “When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners that they may be seen by others. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward.” In fact, Jesus warns us about wanting to be seen by God as pious in verse seven. He says, “And when you pray, do not keep up with the phrases as the Gentiles do, where they think that they will be heard for many words. Do not be like them for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”
Jesus cares deeply about why we do the good things that we do. For people who are struggling, it’s as if he almost wants us to help them and disappear. He isn’t so concerned if the person in need knows who helps them, but he is definitely concerned about if we help people and the way we do it brings attention to ourselves. He’s concerned about the same thing when we pray. He wants us to pray in a way that no one thinks of us as holy either. That will mean that we pray privately if we’re given the freedom to do that. If you are someone in leadership in your church, you may not have that freedom all the time. If everybody only prayed privately, we would have no prayer in church at all. How then would we learn how to pray? Jesus addresses that situation by urging us to not pray as if we are somehow impressing God by the type of speech that we use.
Then in verse 16, Jesus touches on fasting and through the example of fasting helps us understand how we should approach all of our acts of worship. He says, “And when you fast do not look gloomy like the hypocrites for they disfigure their faces that their fasting can be seen by others. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward.” As we think about what Jesus is trying to tell us. I want you to consider that phrase: truly I say to you, they have received their reward. We have to ask the question – What are we hoping to accomplish by the good that we do? Are we hoping to get a good reputation? Are we hoping to impress others? Is our only concern truly the need of the moment? If it is a person in need, does only love actually motivate us? If it is prayer, is it only communion with the Father that motivates us? If it is lamenting over sin, is it only repentance that motivates us? If we are in a season of begging God to work in our country or our church or our family, is it the glory of God working among us that motivates us? What reward do we want?
Jesus follows these discussions with an interesting comment. In verse 19 of Matthew 6 Jesus tells us, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in steal. For where your treasure is there, your heart will be also.” That is the key, isn’t it? What do I really want out of life? Do I want the glory of God and a heart that is pure? Or do I want something else? If I want the glory of God, and a heart or character that is pure then my heart will be where God is glorified, and my heart is pure. But if my goal is something else, then it will be hard to give without blowing my own trumpet. It will be hard to pray in private. It will be hard not to try to impress God when I’m praying. It will be hard not to at least do a little something so that my family or friends know that I’m fasting. What reward are you seeking?
Something to think about?