“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven.” Matthew 6:1 (CSB)
Recently I took a train trip to spend a few days with a friend. After making a scheduled stop, the train pulled out of the depot, slowly meandering through the countryside.
Before it reached full speed, we came to a wide space of fields, where mostly brown and beige weeds and overgrown briars grew as far as the eye could see. However, ahead in the distance, my eye caught a sudden splash of brilliant lavender standing in stark contrast to the bland, unbecoming foliage.
In a few minutes, this patch of purple came more clearly into view. When it did, I spied the biggest and most gorgeous lilac bush I’ve ever seen, with blooms so enormous I thought they might topple the bush right over. I thought to myself, What a shame this magnificent plant was situated way out there in the boondocks where hardly anyone could see it.
But you know what? The remote location of that breathtaking bush does not detract from its splendor. It matters not that it draws few onlookers. It is still a stunning display of growth and life. Not having an audience doesn’t make it any less lovely.
I’m learning that much of what God calls us to do in day-to-day life isn’t all flashy and post-worthy. Instead, it’s ordinary, intended to be done quietly, with no spotlight drawing attention to it.
Many of these actions involve other people. For example, followers of Christ are urged to treat others with thoughtfulness and consideration. “And be kind and compassionate to one another …” states Ephesians 4:32a (CSB). What might this look like?
It may be displaying kindness by packing a lunch for your husband or child on a morning when they’ve overslept and they’re trying to frantically get out of the house on time. It might be taking extra time in your day to straighten and clean a common workspace you share with a co-worker or to patiently play on the floor with a toddler. It could mean helping an elderly shopper load their groceries in their car when you see them struggling with a heavy bag.
Being compassionate might involve anonymously sending a gift card for a local restaurant to a family recovering from a death, or giving of your time, efforts or even money to help the marginalized and forgotten in your community or another part of the world.
Matthew 6:1 gives us a warning in performing such endeavors — righteous deeds that are right in God’s eyes: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven.”
In this verse, the word “righteousness” in the original Greek means an action having God’s approval and deemed to be right in His eyes. We’re cautioned that doing such actions in order to be seen by others gains us no reward in heaven. When we perform these deeds merely to elevate ourselves in others’ eyes, it’s nothing more than a spiritual show.
On the flip side, we can also conclude that doing righteous acts with the right perspective — because they please God — is how we are to behave and will be rewarded by Him.
As we grow and blossom in our walk with the Lord, let’s be on the lookout for ways to show kind and compassionate service to others, doing so only to glorify God rather than promote ourselves. You may not gather a large audience. But let’s keep serving Jesus by serving others, even when He’s the only one who notices.
Father, help me to love and serve others out of a pure heart, with my only motive being to glorify You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (CSB)
Ephesians 2:8-9, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast.” (CSB)
If you’d like encouragement and practical ideas for loving and serving others, grab a copy of Karen Ehman’s book and video Bible study, Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World.
Doesn’t life feel a little hectic in the fall? As you figure out your new normal, take a peek at our fall sale, and find resources to help you be still and keep God in the center of your next season. Start shopping!
Need creative ideas for scattering kindness in secret? Head to Karen’s blog where she’s not only sharing ways to bless others stealthily, but also giving away a free printable of whimsical kindness cards to leave when you do.
REFLECT AND RESPOND
What is an action you often perform that goes mostly unseen by others? How might the caution in Matthew 6:1 (being careful not to perform acts just to be seen by others) help you gain a new perspective on this activity or responsibility?
Think about a time when someone did something incredibly kind for you (or someone close to you). Say a prayer and thank God for their kindness — then feel free to brag on them in our comments section!
© 2019 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.