Thursday, August 19, 2010

Deeds To Be Seen By Men

Today the meaning of Matthew 6:1-4 (and much that follows in the same chapter) was made much clearer to me.
"Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. "Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But 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. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (ESV)
It only makes sense that we be humble ourselves and not seek recognition for things we should feel compelled to do out of a life changed in Christ. After all, it is the fruit of the Spirit of Christ that we display our faith with action (Gal. 5:22-23). Faith without deeds is dead (James 2:26). However, standing on corners sharing those deeds with everyone is not the point of the deeds.

Sharing our deeds certainly can make life a little easier. The world might witness a ‘good person’ by the deeds you do. Christians will know for certain that you are living the life of someone who has been ‘forgiven much’ (Luke 7:46-48). And the world will see you are a disciple of Christ by those works as well and not blame you for the ills of society. In fact, those that want to hurt you will find a way even if you do nice things for your neighbor. I have seen this first hand; that no matter what you do, people will hate you and treat you with contempt. Jesus said this (Matthew 10:34-35; John 20:21). Peter, Paul, and James all agreed this would happen as the point that you should consider it joy and to persevere in your suffering.

I have seen how many within Emergent circles elevate works as the only proof of salvation (though this is not exclusive to Emergents). That unless you are always serving the poor, 24-7, always helping people around you, you are not a true follower of Jesus—with no mention of faith, grace, or the Gospel.

Jesus thought it was none of their business what you do. He named the greatest command as this: To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:28-31). This will lead you to behave in a different way if you truly believe it. But he never said to keep a tally of those things. In Matthew 6, he clearly teaches the opposite. What you do is between you and God and you will receive your honor from Him alone.

To keep your deeds secret does humble you. It requires you to know that many will never know if you do nice things for other people and it may cause some that seek to hurt you an easier route to do it. I have felt the sting of other Christians who believe with all their hearts I am not a servant and that I do not care about service to others. Of course this is without any merit.

Take heart! Jesus Christ died on the cross as a substitute for the evil things of the world. By his death we receive life! By our faith in him, through grace we have been saved. As you serve anonymously and without earthly rewards this week, know why you serve: not for accolades of men, but out of a life saved by Christ.