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June 26, 2014 – Matthew 6

Click here to read Matthew 6 on BibleGateway.com

k0175497Have you ever watched one of those award ceremonies where actors are given awards for all their hard work of pretending to be someone one else for millions of dollars? Neither have I. But for the sake of illustration, let’s say that we have. Otherwise my little picture there is just silly. Can’t have that.

Oh, how we love to get credit. Not the credit card kind of credit; that one kinda stinks, what with the mounting interest rates, the minimum payments and the threats and hired goons. We’re talking about the kind of credit when everyone gives you a round of applause, with roses tossed in the air, and much rejoicing in the land. And we sit with a small little smile on our face, poo-pooing all the attention (on the outside) while we revel in the glow of our own awesomeness (on the inside), because after all, clearly we deserve to be recognized for all the hard work we have done.

ET TU, CHURCHE?

Even in the church, we want to be the one recognized for our service. We want the pastor to single us out in the service with a cry of “behold a righteous man, in whom there is nothing false.” We want the church to call us up and pat us on the back when we get back from our two-week mission trip to South America (surely they know how hot it was down there and how we suffered for Jesus?). We want the recognition for our “sacrificial” giving in the offering last week (of course, it was really 3 weeks’ worth since we’ve missed a couple weeks on vacation and recovering from vacation.) We don’t announce our greatness naturally (that would be arrogant.  or something), but we want others to notice just the same.

Jesus doesn’t hold back when he discusses our need for recognition. He pointedly says that when we are behaving righteously, we should go out of our way to keep those things secret. We should give without letting others know we are giving, or how much we are sacrificing to give (that means wrapping a one dollar bill around your hundreds when you give, rather than the other way around). When we fast, we aren’t supposed to go around with a hollow starving look in our eyes, or “casually” mention that we can’t join people for lunch because we’re fasting. When we pray, we don’t need to kneel at the altar and raise our hands to the heavens in cries of righteousness. We pray alone in our own room (feel free to cry out there of course. But not so loud the neighbors hear).

AUDIENCE OF ONE

Why? Why does God care if people know that we’re giving, fasting, praying, holy people? Could it be that God knows us better than we know ourselves? If others know what we are doing, is it possible that we may be doing those acts of righteous just for the benefit of others, rather than actually trying to be close to God? If we’re honest with ourselves, we may have to admit that fasting is a little easier when someone else acknowledges our sacrifice. Sorry, my friends, this should not be.

But don’t give up. Note that Jesus doesn’t say we should stop praying or giving; he just says we need to be careful to be doing them with the right motivation. We don’t do what we do in order to impress others or get the credit for being awesome; we do what we do in order to please God. If we are focused on serving God, then the recognition from others will mean little to us. Our reward is to please our Creator and Father.

That should be enough credit for anyone. Even without the red carpet.

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