When it comes to acting righteously or doing noble deeds, it should be done with one’s full heart and the right motive. From the beginning, humans desire a thing which is a good reputation among people because God created us that way, so that we can live a good life with a good reputation, but, people have gone so far that they pretend to be good people or righteous people in front of others. They show something that they are not and to them, Jesus says, “The Hypocrites”.
1“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
– Matthew 6:1-18
The word hypocrite itself is a strong word that means a person who puts on a completely false appearance of virtue or religion.
Jesus mentions three righteous acts above, which are giving, fasting, and praying. In every act, He warns us not to be a hypocrite. A hypocrite can fool people by showing his good deeds or noble behaviors which are completely false, but he cannot fool God. God doesn’t see the outward appearance but He sees the heart and its intentions.
“…The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
(1 Samuel 16:7).
“People may be right in their own eyes,
but the Lord examines their heart.”
“would not God have discovered it,
since He knows the secrets of the heart?”
Why should we not be hypocrites?
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”
We all want God’s reward, don’t we? It’s not that I am saying that we do everything to just get rewards from God, but, as a child, we believe in God, and that He will bless us as a Heavenly Father.
Now I don’t know if Jesus is talking about a reward that we will be given on the judgment day or if He is talking about a reward that we will get on this earth, but, what matters is that we should have it and not miss it. Whether in this life or in the afterlife.
When we practice righteousness such as giving, fasting, praying, worshipping, forgiving, and every act that God tells us to do, we should not do it to be seen or to be praised by people. If we do so, Jesus says we will not get the reward.
We must do everything for the glory of God. Not you, but He, God. If you try to steal His glory, you may find yourself incomplete. It may feel right and happy at the moment, but, that joy will not last long. Whenever you give glory to God, God satisfies your soul and spirit. You will be happy and motivated.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
(1 Corinthians 10:31)
Then should we not practice righteousness in front of people at all?
No, that’s not what Jesus is saying. We can pray or worship or give in public. If we stop doing righteous acts in public then how can we tell people about Jesus and about His sacrifice to unbelievers? It will be almost impossible for people to know Jesus and us as His children and followers.
Jesus told us to pray for the sick so that they would be healed. Now we cannot do that in secret, even if we pray in secret, then the person will not know who healed him.
Jesus didn’t say don’t pray or worship in public, but rather, He said don’t be hypocrite or do anything ONLY to be seen or get praises from people.
If your intentions are good and whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God, then praying, giving or anything in public is good and right. Because that way you are glorifying God and acting as the salt and the light of the world.
A lamp should be kept on the wall or somewhere on top, so that it can give light to the whole house, likewise, you have the light of God, let that light shine upon people so that they can give glory to God.
Having said all that, if you desire something to be kept in secret, only between you and God, such as helping a person, going on fast, donating, supporting a ministry or a missionary, or something else, then feel free to do it. This way you are proving that you trust God’s existence, provision, and the reward only from God.
However, if you are married, then at least let your spouse know about it because you don’t want to hide anything from him/her, since you both are one. Or, if you are not an adult, then let your parents or pastor know about your decisions so that they can help you.
I have been personally doing some things that are between me and my God, but now that I am engaged, I am learning to tell my future wife about my decisions.
So in the end, I can say: in public or in secret, let everything that you do be for the glory of God.