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Today’s Pulse article is adapted from the January 17th, 2012 Pulse.
“Be 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. 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 men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you… When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)
Who are you when no one is watching? What do you do, and where does your mind go, when there is no audience? Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 are most likely directed at the Pharisees, the religious leaders who loved to show off how religious they were through their public displays of giving, praying, and fasting (Matthew 6:16-18). Jesus boldly calls them hypocrites. In Jesus’ day, the Greek word “hypokrites” was the word for actor, someone who is playing a part for an audience. By using this term, Jesus tells us to resist the urge to give, pray, fast, or do any other good works in order to receive the applause of the crowd. In our day of social media, this admonition is more timely than ever, as we are regularly attempted to live for the “likes.”
Jesus tells his listeners that instead of being hypocrites, they should do their acts of righteousness in private: give quietly, pray in your private room, and not tell people when you are fasting. What you do in private, Jesus says, is a much better indicator of your piety than what you do when there is an audience, and will lead to reward from the Father.
So, who are you when no one is watching? If I set up a hidden camera in your home, would I be shocked at the person you are when you are not out in public? If I knew how you spent your time or what occupied your attention when you were alone, would you be embarrassed? How much of your faith and discipleship is a genuine part of who you are, and how much of it is a show, playing a part for the crowd like an actor on the stage? Are you a man or woman of integrity, the same person in private and in public, living your life in every situation to honor your God, or are you living for the approval of the world? Consider your answer carefully, for it will reveal a great deal about who your God truly is, what it is you are truly living for and finding your joy in.
Who are you when no one is watching? Jesus came to die for hypocrites, for those of us who so often live for the applause of the world, who do not live to honor God above all others. If you are a hypocrite (and we all are…), then confess that to God today and allow Him to make you over into a man or woman of integrity.
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