Whose approval are you seeking?

Matthew 6:1-6 - 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.

John 5:44 - How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?

The story goes that the great 19th century British preacher Charles Spurgeon and his wife would sell, but refused to give away, the eggs their chickens laid. Even close relatives were told, “You may have them if you pay for them.” As a result, some people labeled the Spurgeons greedy and grasping.

They accepted the criticisms without defending themselves, and only after Mrs. Spurgeon died was the full story revealed. All the profits from the sale of eggs went to support two elderly widows. Because the Spurgeons where unwilling to let their left hand know what the right hand was doing (Matthew 6:3), they endured the attacks in silence (story courtesy of Chaplain Magazine).
I am sure that most of the people reading my words believe in God. Many of you believe that Jesus died for your sins, that the Bible is God’s inspired word, and that eternal life is real. But do you believe in God strongly enough to live solely for His approval? Is your faith in God so sincere that you are no longer interested in seeking out the praise of those around you, or in trying to avoid their criticism?

In Matthew 6, Jesus exposes the Pharisees for the hypocrites that they are. In Jesus’ day, the Greek word for hypocrite referred to an actor, someone playing a role or wearing a mask. Jesus told his listeners that the Pharisees appeared to be pious, but in reality it was an act: they were more concerned about their reputation in the community than they were about seeking God’s approval. Jesus tells the crowd not to do their acts of righteousness in order to receive the applause or favorable opinion of the crowd, but to do things secretly, so that only God knows what you have done. If your goal is to be praised by man, Jesus says, then the crowd’s praise is the only reward you will receive.

The truth is that most, if not all of us, are insecure. We doubt our self-worth, we aren’t sure that we are lovable, and we don’t know if our life truly matters. And the easiest way to soothe our insecurities is to play a role, to put on a mask that will garner the praise of others. We can curate our presentation to the world so that people see us as the devoted Christian, or the good parent, or the person concerned about social justice, or any number of other personas. But as Jesus tells his disciples in John 5:44, “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” If your primary concern is having a favorable appearance before other people, then there is something missing in your knowledge of God and your trust in His justification of you, that the verdict is already in, and in Christ your life DOES matter, you ARE loved, and your worth can be measured by how much God was willing to give to reconcile you to Himself. He gave His only Son.

Drop the mask, and stop playing the role. Choose to live for HIS approval.

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