Public Displays of Righteousness

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We’ve all encountered the awkward time when two people, evidently infatuated with one another, forget that they are in public and proceed to act accordingly. We refer to it as an unnecessary public display of affection. In the same way, we can be grossly undignified when we try to show our infatuation with good works by engaging in them where everyone can see.

The good works that God enables us to perform are not meant to be a performance for others. We don’t live out our faith so we can walk around like kids with a new AWANA jewel.

Jesus tells us that if we do good deeds to be noticed, then human recognition is the limit of our reward. It’s a lame reward. It amounts to provoking envy or a sense of inferiority into the sinful hearts of other imperfect people. Great. Frame that and hang it on your wall with the other meaningless tokens of accomplishment.

On the other hand, if we strive to bless others secretly, then they still receive our kindness, have their suffering alleviated, feel loved, or whatever else, but our Father receives the glory. The recipient has no choice but to direct thanks to God because we are out of the picture. We also receive something; the secret joy of pleasing our Father, and the special rewards that can only come from him.

Our faith will inevitably make a spectacle of us, but it won’t garner the applause of a watching world. Good deeds done by men are only good because God enables them. Righteous deeds are an inevitable part of a true believers public profile, but they are not the currency used to boost his or her standing in the community of the redeemed.

3 thoughts on “Public Displays of Righteousness

  1. Wherefore this must be understood proverbially; and the sense is, that when they did their alms, they chose public places for it, such as the “synagogues”, where was a large concourse of people met together for religious worship; or the open “streets” of the city, where people were continually walking to and fro, so that nothing could be done in this way, but what must be seen and observed: and moreover, they took care, either by themselves, or others, to proclaim their good actions, that they might “have glory of men”; not only of the poor, or the collectors for them, but of the spectators. R. Aben Ezra (n) says, that “a man that gives alms to the poor, must not give it because of the glory of the collector, i.e. that he may have glory of him; nor that the children of men may praise him.” Gills Exposition of the Entire Bible

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