Who are you when no one is looking?

“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.”  (Matthew 6:1-2)

In chapter 6 of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells the listening crowd that the religiosity they see on display in many of their spiritual leaders is not genuine, but fraudulent. He uses the Greek word for an actor on a stage – hypocrite – a word that has come down through the ages to refer to anyone who is pretending to be something that they are not. Jesus tells the crowd not to be like the hypocrites, who give and pray and fast in a showy way in order to curate public perception of themselves as godly people. Jesus tells his audience instead to give in secret, to pray to God where no one else can see, and to not make it obvious when they are fasting. This kind of secret devotion, He says, reveals that you are truly living for an audience of One, not for the applause of the watching world. And God will honor and reward that kind of devotion.

Hypocrite is a great word that still holds powerful meaning today to describe those who claim to be one thing with their words but prove to be something completely different by their lifestyle. Just because someone appears to be a godly person, prays and worships with fervor, or is friendly and kind towards others, does not necessarily mean that they are right with God. A better test of a person’s godliness, according to Jesus, is who they are when no one but God is looking.

Another great word that is closely related to the idea of hypocrisy is the word integrity. The man or woman of integrity displays the same moral or ethical convictions regardless of the circumstance. It does not matter if they are at home or at church, surrounded by a crowd or alone. In the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). The pure in heart are those who are singular in their desire, who live with integrity in their pursuit of a right relationship with God.

So who are you when no one is looking? Does your private persona match your public or online persona? Or would Jesus categorize you with the hypocrites that He speaks against? Do you curate a perception of yourself in order to gain the approval or adulation of others? Or does your private devotion – or lack thereof – reveal the true state of your heart before God

I encourage you today to drop the act. Abandon the persona. Confess your sin to God and to someone you trust. Repent of your hypocrisy today, and commit yourself to living with integrity before God and others.

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