Humility is not natural to us. But it is necessary to develop it. Humility is  a by-product of a sanctified life.

I was riding down Ezelle Avenue in my hometown in the 1970’s. I had tried to ride my bike without my hands on the handlebars before but always chickened out at the last moment. But this time I was determined to make it work. i sped down the hill that is Ezelle and built up my speed. When the street flattened out at the bottom I released my handebars. And there I was. My bike was moving straight ahead. I was pedaling it. And I was doing this without either of my hands steering my bike.

I let out my best “Yahooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” I continued to scream as I sped towards the stop sign at the end of Ezelle I screamed “Look at me! Look at me!” All my practice finally paid off. I was riding with no hands. I had arrived to the elite of bike riders. And I wanted everyone to know I had arrived and I had achieved this great accomplishment. Do you remember ever doing anything like this? I bet you did.

Parading our accomplishments in front of others, showing off and drawing attention to ourselves is a natural part of growing up. Hopefully though we no longer feel the need to say “Look at me! Look at me!” when we accomplish something once we are adults. This is also true of us as we grow in Christ. Actually is it more important when we consider this attitude in spiritual things.

In Matthew 6 Jesus has some sobering words for us regarding showing off our righteous deeds in front of others hoping they will notice us. He seems to say that the person who does this is not mature – not very far in his or her sanctification process – but needs the attention and approval of others. How are you doing with this? Lets look at what Jesus has to say about this and how we can apply it to our lives

 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:1-8 NASB

Jesus gives us a warning about displaying our righteous deeds so that we will be noticed by others. Why is this a problem? Should we be ashamed of the righteous things we do? Well the problem with having an attitude that displays one’s good deeds for recognition is a heart issue. If I (or you) am doing things just to show off or draw the adulation of others, do I really care about what I just did? Or, did I do something nice for someone else simply as a way of drawing attention to myself. I think the meat of Jesus’ warning it toward our heart and not our action. If we want attention from others for the good we do, we are in trouble. At best we are immature.  At worst, well, lets leave it for the next article.

But notice here that Jesus begins with a broad statement of warning saying if our motivation for doing good lies in the recognition we receive from others, then our Father in heaven will not reward us for the good thing we just did. I want to concentrate on that first statement for now. though Jesus continues with the specific examples of giving and prayer. These were two things the Pharisees did out in pubic quite often. They displayed their holiness for all to see. Sadly though, it was just a show.In giving us the warning in the first broad statement Jesus is basically saying “Don’t be like those guys!” And why? The Pharisees were quite proud and loved reminding everyone of their status and accomplishments. Their motive for doing good works was the recognition they would receive (see Matthew 13 for more on Jesus’ thoughts on the Pharisees)

You see our motivation for doing good is more important than the good deed itself.

If we are looking to get something for the good we do, then the good we do is really not of any eternal consequence. Our heart will be exposed as more concerned with looking good rather than truly helping others.

If I could sum up Jesus’ instruction in this passage in two words, those words would be “Be humble.” Humility is not natural to us. But it is necessary to develop it. Humility is  a by-product of a sanctified life. If one is being more and more sanctified, that person will be more and more humble about the good deeds accomplished through him.

Do you have a problem with being humble? do you struggle with how much to do good works in the presence of others? Yeah, me too. I think we all have difficulty in this area because we all are, to a greater or lesser degree, arrogant and proud. The key is to know that I (or you) have a probem and being willing to work on it.

In my next article or two I’ll continue to work through Matthew 6 and uncover more truths to apply to our lives as we walk this pilgrim’s path. In looking at this passage I hope to help you if you are struggling with spiritual pride. I’ll not only use the truths in this passage but also through some experiences I have had throughout my life. Some of these experiences will bring back painful memories for me. But these things happened so that I can share them as examples with you and hopefully spur you on to a life that pleases God and not yourself.

 You see our motivation for doing good is more important than the good deed itself.

After all isn’t bringing glory to God the reason we do good things anyway?

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