What are some reasons people give for not wanting to be a Christian? There is no doubt that at least one reason is because of the hypocrisy that people see in Christians and so-called religious people. In Matthew 6:1 Jesus said, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” As believers, we should be careful not to go to church, pray, give, worship, or even serve in a Christian school in order to impress people. If we do so, we are hypocrites. The principle Jesus is teaching in this verse is how we should practice our righteousness and religious acts without being a hypocrite. Jesus warns us not to do them just to be noticed by people, but as Christians, we should do these things for the glory of God. The people we are around every day carefully evaluate us as to our motivation and consistency in our Christian walk. They are quick to point out those times when we seem to be requiring something from them or others that we are not practicing ourselves.
Do you remember someone in your life who was blatantly a hypocrite? I remember one of my coaches when I was in a public junior high school who adamantly did not allow players to curse, smoke, or drink (one would think this might not be a problem for 13 and 14 year old’s, but unfortunately it was). This particular coach could not complete many sentences without using profanity, smoked openly, and talked about his drinking prowess in front of players. Needless to say, this coach was not held in high esteem by his players and the motivation for keeping his rules had nothing to do with character building, only the desire to participate in the sport. He was truly a hypocrite, among other things, and should never have been in a responsible position influencing young men.
In the passage in Matthew, Jesus gave several practical examples of what our motivations should be for doing good works. For instance, he pointed out the responsibility in caring for people with needs. Jesus warned them about helping the wrong way. In Matthew 6:2-4 he said, “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 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.” The way God receives the glory is found in verse 3. “Don’t let your right hand know what the left hand is doing.” This is an expression of secrecy, not of minimizing giving, even public giving. Practically speaking it is when we can give in a way that is between ourselves and God only. If we give where only God knows about it, we can’t boast or be proud. Here at our school, our parents recognize when a teacher pours their life into their students out of a heart of love and concern, with no desire for recognition. I believe that God will reward all of those countless hours a teacher gives, that no one will ever know about.
Another example that Jesus gave in this passage, and maybe one that we have the opportunity to practice the most here at school, is the example of forgiveness. Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive men when they sin against you. Your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Forgiveness is like a two-way street. If it is open to receive God’s forgiveness, it is open to forgive others. If it is closed in either direction it is closed to both and can affect our fellowship with God and with people and rob us of the joy of our salvation. The opportunity to practice this principle of forgiveness in front of others is available literally every day of our life. Whether it is forgiving a child or student who disrespects you, or a neighbor, or a family member who didn’t seem to hear you out…. the opportunities are there.
At the end of the day it is not about what we do, it is about having the right motivation for what we do, because that is what is noticed by the people whom we influence and what will influence them for Christ.
Robert Andrews, Ph.D.