Matthew 6:1 – “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” NASB
Matthew 5:16 – “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” NASB
This has always been a bit of a troubling reality for me. All of us, whether we admit it or not, like to be noticed and given appropriate accolades. You may argue that you do not, and I won’t argue with you, but I would ask that you carefully consider that position in the light of God’s full knowledge of our hearts. Most people enjoy a certain amount of flattery, even those who are truly self-effacing in most things and most of the time. It is part of our human DNA.
Jesus, in this passage and in other places, warns against doing what we do for recognition of man. Man is not the one we need to impress. Man has the power to kill the body but not the soul. Man has the power to make our lives miserable or pleasant but cannot determine our eternity. Man, no matter how powerful or resourceful is not our source, God is. The warning of our LORD is powerful.
The warning is ‘beware’, but beware of what? Beware of practicing your righteousness or religion before people so that they notice you. The implied is that they notice, recognize, and praise you. They deem you a very pious person. That became the pursuit of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. They prayed long prayers in public and the suggestion is those prayers were not grounded by earnest prayers in private. They dressed in a manner as to appear more pious and righteous than others. They gave to be noticed.
Jesus’ warning includes the explanation, “otherwise, you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” Here and other places, our LORD instructed those hearing His words, “If you do what you do for pretense or recognition, that’s all you get.” How warm are you in the cold, with the recognition of others? How full is your stomach when you are hungry, with the platitudes of others? How able are you to defeat the devil when he comes in like a flood, with the accolades of people?
In Luke 6:38 Jesus gave a powerful discourse on this very principle and reiterated the powerful Law of Sowing and Reaping and the Law of Harvest. He said, “Give”. That alone would be enough, but He said more, much more in the instruction and revelation. He said, “Give and IT shall be given…” (Emphasis mine). That is the word that transformed my understanding of giving and living – IT!
In keeping with the thought of being noticed by man and rewarded by the Father, this verse is uniquely appropriate. The giving is IT and the “It” is whatever you give. Therefore, I suggest that our giving and living should be to please the Father but also with a specific object or goal. The passage in Luke is not about money only, it is about Life. In the Law of Sowing and Reaping and the Law of Harvest, we understand the farming principle that we Reap WHAT we so, we Reap MORE than we sow, and we Reap LATER than we sow.
Reaping WHAT we sow is incredibly important in learning to live so as to please God rather than winning the recognition of men. If we need Love and give Love out of Love for God and for people, we receive a harvest of love both from God and people. If we need understanding and we give understanding out of a genuine concern for others and a love for God, we receive a harvest of understanding and compassion.
We can live in religious pretense or out of sincerity with our focus on being recognized as a righteous man or woman and our reward is only their words and thoughts. But if we live focused on God and truly become one who ‘seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness we will find favor with God and God’s favor opens the storehouse of heaven for us.
I want people to like me, but I refuse to live my life with that as my primary objective. I want to be a man after God’s own heart. I want to become the righteousness of God in Christ. I want the mind in me that was also in Jesus. I want to love as Jesus loves or better Have Jesus love and live through me.
Refuse to let what people say about you determine how you live. Learn to live with God, His will and purpose at the center of your daily pursuit. He will never fail you and will never leave you.
God bless you as you enjoy this wonderful day in Him!