THE DANGER OF BEING GOOD IN PUBLIC
Jesus said, “let your light shine before people that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16). Then later in the same sermon he says, “Beware of practicing your piety before people to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Which is it Jesus?
On the one hand, we are called to shine in a way that reflects God’s goodness. Each of us bears the image of a beautiful God. Our Glory is his glory! I love when my kids shine in all their glory doing what they are great at – sports, music, school, work, whatever! It makes me happy and it makes me look good too. God loves it when you shine. Don’t stop!
But there is a danger Jesus is warning us of later in the sermon. It’s the danger of people pleasing. It is easy for our shining to turn into a show. When you shine because you are being who God made you to be and doing good work from the heart it is beautiful and it glorifies God! When you are doing religious things in front of others to make yourself look good, not only doesn’t it glorify God, it makes him look bad.
Practicing spiritual disciplines like giving, prayer and fasting can all be ways of drawing attention to yourself. If you want people to say, “that was a great prayer!” then that’s all the effect that prayer will have. If you want to them to say, “You sure are generous!”, you are forfeiting the reaping that would normally come with sowing. If you are hoping people find out about your fast so they think you are really “spiritual”, you are missing the point entirely.
SOME GOOD QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
How does this work in a social media culture? Can you post that you gave to someone’s cause? That helps bring attention to it and non profits rely on people forwarding and “liking” their causes. How about prayer? Should we do public prayers like the national day of prayer or prayer walks? Is it ok to announce what we are giving up for lent on Facebook? I would love to hear your honest thoughts. Reply in the comment thread below then come Sunday to talk more about it at Mountain View Church.