“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Matthew 6:1
Why do we do what we do? In particular, why do we do what we do for other people? Is it because we care about others or do we have some other motivation?
One person can tell whether or not another person actually cares about people by the way they act. Sometimes it may not be by the experience of a single encounter with the person but after multiple events their actions begin to paint a picture of what’s actually going on in their hearts and what’s really driving them to do what they do.
Our focus text today admonishes us to “take heed” or be careful that we don’t just do our acts of service so that we can be seen. Our acts of lovingkindness shouldn’t be token acts given to improve our public image, like a token minority, disabled, or female employee. If our driving reason is merely to get attention for ourselves and create a public impression then that’s all the reward we’ll ever have.
Friends, some people do public service just because they want to live in a cleaner, nicer, more peaceful neighborhood. They don’t really care about those around them that need their help, they’re just trying to make a more realistic version of Disneyland.
Jesus came not because there was a part of his perfect universe that was making him look bad as a divine creator but because he loves all his creation and when part of it is lost and hurting he wants to do what he can to help.
It’s easy to do the right thing because we know it’s the right thing and if that’s where you have to start then certainly start there, but that’s not the motive that demonstrates true righteousness. Righteousness flows from a heart that is filled with the love that flows continuously from the heart of God. When this flood washes through our lives we’re not only made clean our lives are healed as well. Our selfishness becomes other centered, we become genuinely caring and our service for others is driven by that deep need to help the hungry and hurting around us.
So what do we do if we find ourselves doing our acts of kindness not because we’re kind but because we’re pursuing a self righteous life?
First, don’t stop doing the right thing. People need our help even if our kindness doesn’t really come from the heart. Also, I believe that the best school for teaching us to love like Jesus is the one where we’re everyday caring for the needy around us. While we serve others we need to pray that the Holy Spirit will give us the heart of Christ. We need to reach out to Jesus and from his infinite supply of love become possessors of a love that will first transform us and then change world around us.