“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. Matthew 6:1
One of the best examples of public service I can think of, from my lifetime, was Bob Dole. The former senator, presidential and vice-presidential candidate, and political icon was a Purple Heart-decorated World War II veteran. His right arm was severely injured during his time as an Army officer in Italy, in 1945. For the rest of his life, he lived with a largely useless and painful limb, and he lived almost another eighty years. Yet, during all his time in Washington DC, he volunteered, weekly, at US Army hospitals in the area and other military-related service organizations. I recall a rare interview he gave about this in which he downplayed it and said he preferred to keep quiet this kind of service to his fellow veterans.
That’s doing what Jesus said. Bob Dole believed in Jesus, and he’s with Him now.
When Jesus said today’s verse, He was talking to a large group of strangers, on a hill (probably in Galilee). It’s reasonable to assume that, among that group, there were Pharisees. The Pharisees where a social, religious, even political group of Jews who believed in strict interpretation of the Old Testament scrolls. They were (largely) wealthy, at the top of the social ladder, and self-conscious of that fact. Repeatedly in His ministry (at least 77 times), Jesus either referred to or chastised the Pharisees for how they worshipped God. He denounced their self-serving and judgmental ways, disciplining them for their hypocrisy.
In today’s verse, it’s understandable to think of the Pharisees as the foil for Jesus’ command. In public, many of the Pharisees would make a show of their worship, or donating to others, or doing good works so that they would be noticed. Jesus’ response to them is, as you can see, to tell them that the Father ignores them. The Pharisees didn’t seem to have much of Bob Dole’s attitude.
But we need to be careful that we don’t judge them harshly because they’re us. It’s GOOD to judge what others do and how it applies to our own thoughts and deeds. “I shouldn’t do what X is doing.” “That’s wrong.” “That’s the kind of thing I want to do.” Those are healthy judgments of the world around us and how we should live our God-led lives in conducting ourselves.
The flip side of that, however, is not boasting. We are not to be “judgy” of others; we are not to think of ourselves as superior to anyone. Instead, we are to be humble, as Jesus is humble, and do good works because they glorify God, not us. Let God take care of the rest. Bob Dole might have agreed.
For more reading: Luke 18:10-14, Matthew 6:2
Heavenly Father today, keep me humble. Let me live in ways that are humble to glorify only You.
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