Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.
Matthew 6:1, NLT*
In Hannah Whitall Smith’s words, “What we do to be seen by men is seen by men—and that’s all there is to it.” (The God of All Comfort, p. 276)
Somehow that unlocks a new depth of meaning for me: the warning isn’t just “live to please God and don’t show off.” It’s also “don’t be a people-pleaser.”
Don’t do your good deeds to impress, but don’t do them to appease or placate. Don’t live and act in fear of rejection, fear of not measuring up, fear of being yelled at or misunderstood.
The enemy of our souls would whisper lies and inflame our fears of failure and rejection, but I don’t for a moment believe this verse says anything about a frowning God who will disqualify us from receiving something good if we’ve operated in people-pleaser mode. Or even if we’ve been showing off.
I do believe our motives will have cost us the reward we could have earned. It’s an opportunity cost, to use an accounting term. It’s not a punishment. God has the reward and wants to give it, but we have a part to play.
Holy and majestic God who hears our quietest prayer, forgive us for the times we’ve acted “to be seen by people” rather than to please Your heart. Thank You for saving us and for loving us too much to leave us in this damaged behaviour pattern. Thank You for today’s and tomorrow’s opportunities to do good with God-ward hearts and to earn that reward in the Holy Spirit’s power. Thank You for the freedom that confidence in You brings, including freedom from fear of other people.
*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.