“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.”
We like to be recognized for doing the right thing. Sometimes we do something nice for our spouse, but often it’s because we expect a favor in return. Or we might give money for a worthy cause or praise someone for their work, but then we also tell others so that they will know about it. Sometimes we might also put in an extra effort when certain people are around because we want them to think well of us.
This was a rampant problem in the community where Jesus was teaching. The Pharisees and other religious leaders often made a show of their “righteousness,” giving to the poor in visible ways or bragging about their obedience to the law. Such behavior might draw praise or attention from others, but Jesus saw it for what it was. Although these people appeared to be close to God, their motives were selfish, and their hearts were actually far away from him.
Let’s pay attention to our actions and think about how often we do things to get the attention or praise of others. Jesus knows how tempting it is to find our worth in the approval of other people. In this passage he challenges us to fight that temptation by keeping a low profile, and to do acts of kindness and generosity in secret as much as possible.
Father, purify the motives of my heart, and help me to love and serve others as a gift of love, without expecting attention or favors in return. Help me to rest in your love, regardless of what others might think. Amen.