Don’t Brag about How Much You’ve Done for God
One of Jesus ‘teachings was about not bragging about how much we’ve done for God. Or show off about how spiritual and righteous we are! Or how much closer we are to God than others! The Spirit of Christ is humble and we are to live our lives with that same Spirit of humility. In our giving, we can either humbly worship God privately with our tithes and offerings, or we can give our money and time proudly out in front of lots of people making a showy display for all to see and admire.
Let’s listen to Jesus’ words about giving to the needy. “Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before people, 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. . . to be honored by men . . . 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 openly.” (Matthew 6:1-4)
Jesus seems to be saying that when we give either our time or money we must watch against the subtle sin of hypocrisy. Vain-glory can sneak into our lives so easily. One minute the humble love of God is flowing out of our hearts to the needy causing us to help take care of a problem, or right a wrong. But then so soon we are looking around to see how many folks are watching us and how many are impressed with our good deeds. And we are adoring our own shadow. Our names are written down as “Gold” donors or a “Silver” donors for all to see how important we are to give so much! And we are so proud that we bask in the praise of the crowds and the feelings of being better than so many others.
Jesus also talks about what not to do when we pray. Let’s listen. “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 people. 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. And then your Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you openly. And when you pray do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not do that, for you Father knows what you need before you ask Him. “(Matthew 6:5-8)
Jesus is teaching us that our praying should be between ourselves and God. That doesn’t mean that a Christian cannot stand in front of a group and lead in prayer and worship. But we need to be careful not to pray in order to impress other people. What passes between God and our own souls sometimes must be out of sight? When Jesus talked about believers who pray in very public places, He might be suggesting that these folk wanted to pray openly because it gave them the opportunity to be noticed. They wanted to be seen by the “important” people. They wanted to build a reputation for being righteous and religious.
Jesus also speaks against babbling like the pagans do in their prayers, when they think that they must speak many words for a long time in order to be heard. Not that long prayers are forbidden. That is not the point. Christ prayed all night. But prayer is not merely saying words. It is not repeating or “saying” our prayers. Jesus is calling for real genuine prayer where we “pray” our prayers. Prayer is pouring out our hearts to God. I believe God wants our hearts. I think Jesus is calling for our prayers to come from our hearts and not just be words we “say”.
Jesus was trying to get across the point that it is too easy in prayer or in giving to use God to help show ourselves off. And God wants us to come before Him in prayer as His loving children without any added agendas. Jesus adds fasting to the list of religious acts that we can perform to try to look good before others. This is what He said about what not to do when we fast.” When you fast do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show people they are fasting. I tell you they have their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others 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 openly. (Matthew 6:16-18)
Jesus also tells His followers in the same sermon not to use Gods’ Name in an oath or a promise. We are to fear and reverence God because He is holy and also reverence God’s Name and never toss it around casually. We are to treat God’s Name with great respect and never misuse it. This is the third command in the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20:7) Jesus tells us not to swear by God’s Name and also not even to swear by anything. Instead of swearing Jesus says to “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No’.” (Matthew 5:33-36) I believe that Jesus’ main message again here was to teach His followers that God is holy and we are not to make light of Him when we go about living our lives as Christians and when we are praying and fasting and giving and using God’s Name.
It seems that the same theme runs through these four teachings that Jesus gave. He seems to be saying that we are to do these acts sincerely, reverently and humbly, and not play games or use God to impress others. We serve an all-powerful, all loving, all holy and all righteous God and we are to remember that when we come before Him.