August 20, 2019
Scripture: Matthew 6:1 (the Message)
Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.
Thought for the Day: In a recent reading of scripture, I came across this verse as it is translated in the version of the Bible called the Message. Jesus was cautioning his disciples during his Sermon on the Mount, for it appears that he had witnessed those who enjoyed making religion into a show. On one level, this is a bit of a challenge as Jesus told his disciples to not hide their light under a basket, but place it somewhere so that everyone could see it. This sounds like a contradiction. Of course, I find that a lot of life is a balance. Most of us have seen some breath-taking examples of faith coming alive, and the people were able to do so without making themselves the hero of the story. At the same time, we have seen plenty of folks whose actions made us feel a little icky. Oh sure, they had a lot of good Jesus language and made the audience feel good, but we walked away with the question, “Who exactly were we worshiping?” I don’t want to pretend that I have never found my ego getting a little puffed up while doing ministry. Have there been times when my ego might have gotten in the way? I think we can all feel pretty certain about that. So if we are to give witness in a very public way, while not making it into a performance, I see a challenge. And maybe there is where Jesus was trying to stimulate some conversation and personal reflection. I don’t know if any act of kindness or generosity is entirely sacrificial. Maybe? But for most of us, there is a little bit of us that seeks affirmation and enjoys it when it comes. As I said earlier, life is a balance. We serve, and then we reflect. We make changes and ask others to come alongside as accountability partners. We try again, and hopefully we find other people as the more prominent catalyst for why we are doing what we do. We make little changes in how we think about our motivation. These changes allow for the love of God revealed in Jesus to become the primary actor on the stage, and hopefully we are more of the stagehand who doesn’t accidentally trip onto the stage and into the spotlight.
Prayer: Continue to work with me, O Lord. I want to feel pride in what I do in the name of Jesus, but I also want his name to be the name that is on other people’s lips. Not my name! Amen.
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