Growing up baseball was a huge part of my life. I began playing at the age of 4. I played in High School and even had the opportunity to play in college. In High School and College the biggest desire, other than winning, is to be seen. In high school you want to be seen by a college or pro scout. Once in college you want to be seen by a pro scout. Deep inside of most athletes is the desire to be able to perform at the next level. So when someone notices your ability it is amazing. Personally, for me, one of the most exciting days was when Coach Fullerton passed along a letter to me from a Chicago White Sox scout.
It was the first one I received and there was an incredible moment when I realized, someone was watching me. I began to carry myself differently. My mindset changed instantly. I had so much more confidence.
We all have within us a desire to be noticed, to stand out, to be seen. It is why we spend so much time changing clothes, asking how we look, trying to cover up our imperfections. We want to be noticed for our looks, our clothes, our athletic ability, our intelligence, our music ability, our leadership, our planning ability, our preaching. We all want to be noticed. Even those who are behind the scenes, who would never want to be out front, I believe, want people to take notice of how well they do what they do. And now with the reach of the internet, through blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instangram, ect. our world revolves around the ability to let people see what we want them to see about us. Have you seen the new State Farm Commercial?
We have the ability to control other people’s perception of us. And honestly we love it that way. Jesus talks about a new righteousness in chapter 5 of Matthew and leads into chapter 6 with a warning. Be careful not to do acts of righteousness for the purpose of standing out, of being seen, because if you do the only reward you will get will be from the people who praise you for your piety.
Jesus knows us so well. He understands our nature will be to seek praise for what we do. If we give, there will be a tendency for us to want people to see how generous we are, or at least how generous we want them to think we are. If we pray, we will want people to be impressed by the depth of our relationship with Christ. If we fast, for all to know we are fasting, so they can be impressed by our devotion. So Jesus says, BE CAREFUL! This is a dangerous trap.
Jesus tells the first followers, be careful because Your MOTIVES MATTER! You can say it like this…
WHY you do, WHAT you do, is just as important as what you are doing.
The focus of these and other disciplines is to grow closer to Christ. Period! If you are doing it to be seen you are merely pretending. Interestingly enough the word Jesus uses throughout this section, “hypocrite” was not a word that was made up just for the Bible; as in someone who says one thing but really does another. Hypocrite was actually a secular Greek word that was used in the theater. In theater a hypocrite was an actor who wears a mask. So anyone on stage wearing a mask was a hypocrite. So Jesus uses this word to describe a person who gives, prays or fasts for the purpose of being seen. He says, if you are just giving so others see how spiritual you are, you are an actor, wearing a mask pretending to be someone else. There is a danger in fooling others but there is an immense danger that you would fool yourself, that you would deceive yourself and think you are something you are not.
This deception causes two problems. Some might see you and feel they could never be as close to God as you are, when in fact you’re not that close. Secondly, it creates a false sense of security. It becomes easy to look at others and say things like…
Luke 18:11-12 NIV
‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
Jesus is merely reminding his followers, you are not saved because of what you gave, how you prayed or how often you fasted. You are saved by grace. Stop deceiving others and yourself, making them think you are saved by your own works. Life in Christ is not about being perfect, it is about realizing you are not perfect and are desperately in need of a savior!