True righteousness is doing good things because of God’s glory, not for our own.
Matthew 6:1-18 teaches us a lot. It is packed with theology and practical tips for living within the Kingdom of God, but the most important lesson it teaches is that those things don’t matter at all if our motivation is wrong. The very things that are meant to bring us closer to God can drive us away if we use them to elevate ourselves instead of him. True righteousness is doing good things because of God’s glory, not for our own.
What specifically stands out to me about this idea is that Jesus is talking to the religious people. He is saying that many of us who profess to know God and live out his will do so for our own benefit. He reveals the irony that the things that are supposed to reflect our worship to God are done to receive worship from others. These words of Jesus are specifically ones that I have to continually remind myself of and surrender to.
Can I confess that I have felt this pull to use God as a means to my own end? As a public figure within our church, I stand on a stage every week and attempt to use my gifts to lead others closer to him. The truth is I often get compliments about the job that I do. This isn’t to boast, but to be transparent as your pastor. I have to continually remind myself that it’s not me that leads you closer to God, it’s not me that deserves praise, but that God has graciously allowed me to be used for his end. I have to remind myself that any success that I have in bringing our church to a place of worship is because God has allowed me to do so for his glory.
So I write this blog as someone fighting these temptations right along side you. For those of us in the church, we must continually ask ourselves if we are falling into the temptation of using our belief as a way to be above others instead of serving beneath God. If the answer to this in our life is yes, Jesus gives us some steps to take:
1. Give in secret – If what you give (time, treasure, talents) makes you proud, begin to take or give things that are in obscurity until God begins to change those inner motivations.
2. Pray alone – If your prayer time is a means to show people how holy you are instead of influencing them toward God, it may be time to set out time to seek God on your own for awhile.
3. Surrender boldly – Jesus specifically talks about fasting, but the reality is that if there is anything that you are giving up for the sake of God so that your attention can be focused on him, do so, not as if you are inconvenienced, but as if you are anticipating a great encounter with the living God.