Matthew 6:1 “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.
President Reagan had this wonderful plaque on his desk: “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.” The receiving of credit is a very important part of our culture. It’s like earning grades in school. We grow up expecting our efforts to be recognized. Early in my sales career I experienced the disappointment of not being recognized. The top salesperson was publically recognized each month, except they forgot to do it the first month I finished on top.
One aspect of this is the negative response most of us have when credit is given to someone where it isn’t deserved, i.e., someone has been cheating and then getting recognized for excelling. Or in the workplace, to see someone recognized when someone else was primarily responsible. What do we do if we are the ones who receive credit for that which is done by someone else? Do we speak up and re-direct the credit where it belongs?
More importantly, are the good things we do linked to a desire to receive recognition? Are we at peace with knowing that the Lord knows what we do? Jesus warns us here of the problem of doing the right things we are supposed to do, but with an eye to receiving credit for them – to be seen by men. The issue to me isn’t the idea that we lose the reward from our Heavenly Father, but the fact that our motivation is tainted by this desire to have our efforts seen. It is bad for us and displeasing to Him.
The Lord wants our motivations to be centered in the joy of pleasing Him. Living our lives in accord with Scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit brings the joy of knowing that every action is an expression of our love for God. Instead of the need to ‘be seen by men’, we live our lives to bring glory and praise to our God. Matthew 5:16 speaks powerfully to this, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” That is the motivation that we want to fill our hearts!