“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people in order to be noticed by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t blow a trumpet before you like the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they will be praised by people. Truly I tell you, they have their full reward! But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be done in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And whenever you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to stand in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they will be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their full reward! But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Mat 6:1-6 ISV)
What do these verses mean to us?
Perhaps we read it and think, ‘Yes, that’s right, don’t be like those guys… thank the Good Lord I’m not like that!’ …or are we like those guys?
‘I’m glad that I don’t have to worry about praying aloud for all to hear so they will know how Holy I am,’ …or do we do that, maybe even unknowingly?
‘I sure don’t flaunt my giving (something, not just money) in front of others when giving to God’s house, or the poor, the hungry, a friend, a stranger, or those in need,’ …or do we somehow find a way to flaunt the fact?
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people in order to be noticed by them…”
Let’s think for a minute… Are we sure to tell people how often we study God’s Word or do our devotional? Do we tell people how to act right when they’re out of line, and then share with a bunch of friends how we rebuked or admonished that person in love? Do we proclaim our love for God in a group of friends during conversation, or maybe even for no apparent reason? You get the idea…
Do not misunderstand me. What I am not saying is that we should not do any of these things. I am not saying we can’t share some of these things with friends or a loved one… Christians are a body of believers and we are to relate with one another, share with one another your lives, and you obviously can’t do that without sharing some things in your life. What I am saying is that we should take a good look at ourselves and see what it is we do, that perhaps we do for others to notice, and not really out of love and humility. Perhaps we want to feel accepted, or want to feel like people think highly of us. That’s human, and that’s a normal feeling, and that’s okay to feel that need for acceptance. But, how we go about doing it, is another thing. What is our motive? And that, is a question that only you can answer for yourself.
“…whenever you give to the poor, don’t blow a trumpet before you…”
When do we give and help others, and how much does everyone know about it? Have you proclaimed it to the world how much you gave, or what you gave? This is one reason I’ve never been comfortable with offering during a church service. It gives too much opportunity for people to fall in to this trap. Again, offering is fine, giving to others is great, and sharing with close one’s or anyone else in the context of a situation that deems it necessary if all fine and well… but we must make sure to check our motive when we are sharing and when we are giving.
“And whenever you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to stand in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they will be seen by people.”
This seems to be more and more common these days. One wouldn’t normally think so though because in our Politically Correct, Western-Conservative culture, people don’t typically just start praying aloud in public. We don’t have a Wailing Wall here in America either. However, we do pray in church, in our small groups, Bible studies, in our homes with our families, in the privacy of our own room, in the restaurant before a meal even, and elsewhere. In most cases, we’re praying with someone or collectively, or alone. And that’s all well and good.
You would probably think it odd if one were to take a paint brush and a bucket and paint their personal prayers to the Almighty God of Heaven up on a billboard for all to see as they’re driving by on the highway. You would think it a bit haughty… wouldn’t you?
If someone has a personal prayer to Jesus Christ, thanking Him for a good life, or a blessed life, or a wonderful child, or wonderful spouse, or job and so on, and they wrote it on a piece paper and passed around to their co-workers to see what they just prayed, or perhaps they mailed copies of it to all of their family to read, you would likely find that quite bizarre… wouldn’t you? You would most certainly wonder why they did it. What was their motive?
‘I’m sure glad I don’t do that!’ we’re thinking as we read those verses.
But what about posting your own personal prayers on Facebook, or Myspace, or Twitter, or some other social networking site? ‘God, I thank you for a blessed family, and a great job and wonderful surfing weather today, and my cute hamster.’
I’ve seen it. A lot. You’ve most likely seen it as well.
The real question, I suppose, is what are you hoping to accomplish by doing this? What is your real motive behind it?
There’s a time and a place for prayer, and you can pray with others, or in the quietness of your own mind, or aloud… however you’d like. You can pray any time, anywhere… that is your prerogative, and that’s great! You can ask others to pray for you or for a situation on social networking sites, or even to pray with you, but be very, very cautious if you are praying on your social update, newsfeed, tweet, or what have you. You run a very fine line of doing what Jesus Himself said not to do, and from it being a genuine, pure motive to have others pray with you or to encourage another or some other reason as such. This is something we must take a good hard look at within our self and take it to God, and see if we have, in fact, fallen prey. Perhaps you don’t even realize it. Perhaps you do and you simply need to turn from that sin. Perhaps you’ve never been guilty of it, and have seen others do it and you can, in love, bring it up to them. No matter what the situation, perhaps we can all start with our own quiet prayer to God,
“…O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you. Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain! Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalms 139 ESV)