MOTIVES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Lord, teach me the importance of being focused on You rather than on the opinion of others.
Read MATTHEW 6:1–4
“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.
2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
New International Version (NIV)
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“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink” (Prov. 25:21).
Jesus warns us about parading our acts of righteousness in front of others for the purpose of showing off or receiving praise. Earlier (Matt. 5:16), he talked about letting our light shine so that others may see the good works that we do and glorify God. Jesus doesn’t prohibit us from doing good works publicly, but he underscores the motive by which we carry out these actions. Do we do good only to be noticed? Do we yearn for the deep sense of satisfaction when others affirm our actions? Do we obey traffic rules only when we know that the law-enforcement agencies are watching us with their speed cameras? Do we show charity to others only when some returned favor awaits? This is what Jesus warns us against, and he tells us to examine our motives in carrying out these works of righteousness.
Jesus highlights three areas where we are tempted to parade our acts: giving (1–4), praying (5–15) and fasting (16–18). We feel a certain sense of pride and achievement if others know how much we give, how much we pray, and how much we fast. In our reading today Jesus reminds us that our giving is to be marked by self-sacrifice and a deep sense of compassion for the needy and those who do not deserve it, not as a parade of piety or a desire for honor. We give because we are recipients of God’s generous grace and mercy. We give because Christ’s love and compassion compel us. We give because we want to share God’s blessings with others. Jesus calls us to examine our motives when we extend our acts of charity to others.
Why do you do good works? Is it to glorify God or to earn the praise and approval of people?
Lord, cause me to pause and realize when aspects of my service for You are being contaminated by improper motives