When you’re a kid and you learn something new, what do you do?
You show off!
Riding a bike for the first time without training wheels, learning to ride a bike with no hands, learning to dunk the basketball…all are things we ‘show off’! (ok, that last one is just ‘theoretical’–I wouldn’t know.)
But when it comes to SPIRITUAL things, Jesus says we should NOT ‘Show off’.
In Matthew 6, He mentions 3 important spiritual growth practices:Giving to those in need; Praying; and Fasting.
Of course He wants us to do those things–they show our heart for God and others, and our willingness to humble ourselves and put self-interest and appetites aside in order to pursue Him–but He wants to challenge our reasons for doing these things.
Jesus says “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1)
Note the emphasis on “in front of others to be seen by them”.
Some people want to ‘appear’ religious, and they take care to do ‘spiritual stuff’ in such a way that they can get credit for it.
Their motive is mostly ‘self’. They want the admiration and attention.
I don’t think it means that we ‘always’ need to do these things in private, or that we should ‘never’ talk about these things–there are certainly times when we want to encourage others to take the same steps that have helped us, made us grow, etc.–but the motive is the big thing.
Should you give to the needy? Absolutely! Be generous!
Should you pray? Of course! Pray constantly!
Should you fast? Yes! It helps us focus on prayer and seeking God!
But should you do it SO THAT others will think more highly of you? Should you do it in a ‘public’ way SO THAT you get ‘credit’? Should you do it SO THAT God and others are ‘impressed’ with you?
Don’t ‘Show Off’.