When Good Goes Bad
February 23, 2011
In the previous sections of Matthew 5, Jesus warns his followers that their bad thoughts and intentions can lead their hearts astray. In this section of Matthew 6, he warns his followers that their good thoughts and intentions can also lead their hearts astray, and thus, far from the “blessed” life one should lead in Christ.
In his teachings, Jesus talks of three hypothetical stories of “hypocrites” who give, pray and fast only to gain the attention and approval of others. He states in each of these stories that those who live this way have already received their reward in full. Jesus goes on to compare these people to others who do good things “in secret” so as to gain the approval of their heavenly Father and no one else. These people, according to Jesus, will be rewarded by God, who sees what is done in secret.
To bring this teaching into our times, the reason we give should be out of a profound desire for God’s ends to be met in our world. The reason we pray should be out of a profound desire to seek relationship and communion with our Father. The reason we practice any kind of spiritual discipline should be because we desire God to form us and make us into people who desire his will to be met in us and through us. If we do any good thing so that people will take note of us or praise us, the praise we get will be the only reward offered.
Remember the section of Jesus’ call to us to be salt and light? The reason we are called to be light is so that others, “. . . will see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven.” This should be our sole strategy for anything we do in our lives – to bring glory to God.