In Matthew 6, 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. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others’ (Matthew 6:1-2 NIV). Now, we know that doing good in the world is part of being a Christian. When we’re in tune with God, that love and joy naturally spills out into actions that make a difference to the people around us. Of course, sometimes that means that people see us doing those good deeds, and we don’t think that Jesus would be mad at us if people happen to notice us living like Him. It’s less about who sees what, and more to do with motive. Look at how Jesus talks about the Pharisees. He says that ‘everything they do is done for people to see’ (Matthew 23:5 NIV), and goes on to call them ‘whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean’ (Matthew 23:27 NIV). That’s pretty clear, then. It’s not the deeds on the outside that are a problem, it’s the heart and the motive within. We don’t necessarily have to go to undercover-agent lengths to hide or deny our good deeds, but we do have to make sure that they are done with a humble and prayerful heart. If we ensure that our motivation is glory for God, not for ourselves, we’ll be on the right track.
Let’s learn to direct gratitude towards ourselves back up to God. Every time anyone says ‘thank you’ to you today, silently pray a quick prayer of blessing for them. Make it a rhythm to turn the consequences of your positive actions into prayer.