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careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen
by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
righteous deeds can be done with unrighteous motives. Self-sacrifice
can be self-centered. In order to guard against self-centered motives,
Jesus taught that we should be secretive about our devotion and
spiritual practices. True devotion toward God does not seek to draw
attention to self. Private piety is less likely to be pretentious.
we give to the poor, we should do so quietly. When we pray, we should
seek out a place where we can be alone. When we fast, we should avoid
any appearance or behavior that attracts special notice or concern. The
same is true of nearly everything we do for God and for others.
problem, of course, is not that others know or notice acts of
righteousness (of course they will because"a city on a hill is not
easily hid"). The real problem Jesus is getting at is the motives of
our hearts. In order to be truly righteous, we must acknowledge our
potential for selfishness and false motives. We must realize that true
righteousness is directed toward God, not centered in self. We must not
let righteous deeds become a way to achieve self-gain, self-esteem,
self-aggrandizement, or self-gratification. The way of true
righteousness is self-denial.
Response and Action:
will do all I can to practice righteous deeds in quiet and unassuming
ways. I will guard against drawing attention to myself. And if
something I do for God does draw undue attention to me, I will be
careful to give God the glory. I will seek God's blessing, not the
praise of people.
God, give me a heart to do what is right, and to do it for you. It is
your glory and your approval that I desire, not the notice or applause
of others. Help me, by faith, to do the good things you have prepared
in advance for me to do. Help me to be faithful, fruitful, and
effective as your servant: as a husband, father, son, brother, friend,
neighbor, pastor, and colleague. Through Jesus Christ my Lord, who
lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.
Spiritual Formation Verses:
The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and
honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their
worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.
The Message of the Sermon on the Mount: Christian Counter-Culture
by John Stott