Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)
The entire Sermon on The Mount (Matthew 5-7) is like a set of life guidelines for God’s Blessing People. Here in chapter 6, the body of his most famous sermon, Jesus contrasts what life looks like when, on the one hand, we are functioning by faith as The Blessing Person God has redeemed us to be, and when, on the other hand, when we are functioning according to our default, and faulty, natural, self-centered, stingy and anxious modes.
The negative example that Jesus is setting before us in verse 1 describes someone who does all the right things, but those right things are done before others to look good in their eyes. If those viewers respond with public expressions of praise or honour, that is like hitting the jackpot for someone concerned about looking good in the eyes of others.
Being overly concerned for one’s reputation or personal brand is a symptom of this kind of spiritual orientation.
Jesus warns us against public acts of righteousness because it will never save us. And we all need to be saved. All of us, like sheep, have gone astray. We prefer to live outside the realm of our Good Shepherd’s care, but out here in the wilderness there are lions and tigers and bears! Oh, my!
Sensing danger, we seek to save ourselves by trying to make ourselves the best of a lost lot of sheep. Thus, the public displays of good deeds to impress the other sheep.
But we are still outside the Shepherd’s sheep pen.
The solution? Drop all the phony pretending and turn to Jesus. He loves us and he persistently pursues us with his love. He is always near us ready to pick us up and carry us home when we surrender all efforts to save ourselves and collapse in a broken sobbing heap at his feet.
We don’t need anything from anyone else and our fellow human beings cannot give us what we need.
We have an audience of One: Jesus. In him we have all we need, and we need nothing from anyone else.
So, we love because he first loved us. And we give and we serve because he first gave to us and served us by becoming broken for a humanity on the cross. It was Jesus and his sacrifice that has saved us. And we don’t care if anyone besides Jesus sees any good things we may do.
We have an audience of One.
Dear Jesus, thank you for loving and saving me. Draw me closer to you and help me fall more in love with you. Help me to care less about what people think of me and care more about what people think of you. Amen.