Today’s Reading: Matthew 6:1 (HCSB)
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them.
Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
Today’s Question: What is the right way to live out your faith in front of others?
There is a great danger for people regarding religion. No one is immune, even the most mature in their faith. Jesus begins His discourse on the worship practices of a disciple with a lesson on authenticity. We have the ability to fake a worship experience. Yet, few things could anger our God more than a façade of devotion to Him.
Jesus begins by saying “Beware!” Catching their attention, He proceeds to give the problem. It is possible for us to appear to do the “right” thing and have it all wrong.
God commanded the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. Yet in Amos He proclaims to the people of Israel, “Even if you offer Me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; I will have no regard for your fellowship offerings of fattened cattle. Take away from Me the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice flow like water, and righteousness, like an unfailing stream.” (Amos 5:22-24, HCSB)
Judah was not exempt from the emptiness of worship, for Isaiah warns the people, “Stop bringing useless offerings. Your incense is detestable to Me. New Moons and Sabbaths, and the calling of solemn assemblies —I cannot stand iniquity with a festival.” (Isaiah 1:13, HCSB)
God is interested in how a person lives out his or her faith in front of others (See Matthew 5:14, “Let your light shine before men so that others may see your good works and glorify God…”) However, God is also very concerned with the heart of His followers. What is shown on the outside must come from a real relationship with the Lord.
The Greek culture in which Jesus resides loved the theater. People who were skilled in acting were exalted in this society for their ability to play a part, appearing to be someone they are not. Jesus’ warning was to keep that attitude out of the Church. No one is fooling God, even if he or she is able to fool other people. Those who attempt to “practice their religion in front of others” are receiving their reward in full.
There was an ancient practice in the world of commerce regarding payment. When a debt was paid or a product was purchased, the phrase may have been stamped on a document or verbally proclaimed that the purchaser has received his reward in full. In other words, the transaction is complete. For those who practice an outward religion, yet their hearts are fixed upon selfish motives, the praise of man is all they will get. They will receive nothing from God.
One day, as we pass into eternity, our deeds will be rewarded. I am not speaking of salvation, for the issue of punishment for our sins rests upon the finished work of Christ upon the cross. (Those who have trusted in Him have been forgiven of all sin.) While we do not know the exact method or manner by which our Lord will reward us, the fact remains that followers of Christ will receive recognition (a reward) for each act of service in which the believer was obedient to His calling. Yet, this is not the reason for which we worship God.
Our greatest prize for obedience is Christ. We worship with authenticity because we are in awe of our Savior and desire to be as close to Him as we can get. We should not seek the praise of man, for whatever accolade we could possibly receive from others pales in comparison to hearing from Jesus: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21) He knows our heart and our motive, even if others are deceived by a façade of religiosity. Those who follow Jesus will see an audience of no more than One, for pleasing Him becomes their highest goal and purpose for life.
“Follow One, Lead Others” Principle #26: Disciples of Christ must strive to please God instead of seeking the applause of others.
Today’s Prayer Point: Ask God to give you a heart that longs only to glorify Him.