Thursday, April 19
Doing the right thing for the wrong reason
Scripture: 1 Samuel 22, Psalm 17, 35, Matthew 6
Matthew 6:1 Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven.
This is the lead sentence in a section where Jesus talks about three spiritual practices: giving to the poor, praying and fasting. These three were the pillars of Jewish spiritual practice. Jesus doesn’t question whether we should do these things—we should. He questions our motive. If we do these things “to be seen by others,” that is, to be noticed and to win the applause, praise and approval of others, we are robbed of the real meaning and benefit.
So Jesus says we are to do these things in secret to guard against the temptation of doing them to be seen. If we do, we will win the applause of heaven. Our Father who sees what is done in secret will reward us. But if we do them to be seen and applauded by others, that is all the reward we will get. Do your good in secret!
Good things can be done for bad reasons. Right things can be done for wrong reasons. Once again, Jesus gets to the heart of the matter: not just what we’re doing, but why we’re doing it.
I love affirmation—I’m an affirmation junky. My love language is words of affirmation. So this is a particularly strong temptation for me. I’m always aware of who is watching, noticing. I even catch myself telling people what I’ve done “in secret” so they’ll know how good I am! I’ve gotten better—but it’s still a live temptation for me.
Doing things in secret can be difficult because much of my life is very public—sometimes I can’t help being seen. So it comes back to a heart check: why am I doing it? If I’m doing it to be seen—that’s wrong. If I’m doing it for the good of others or the glory of God, and I happen to be seen—that’s ok.
Here is a good question: if no one were around to see and know that I’m doing this, would I still do it? If I get no credit, no recognition, would I still do it?
Prayer: Lord, help me live for an Audience of One. I want to hear Your “Well done good and faithful servant.” I don’t want to hear, “Well, you got your applause already; I’ve got nothing for you.”