There is a part of us that loves the lime light. Inside each one of us there is a desire to be seen by people, to be in a position where we are being praised, a situation where we give people the opportunity to give us thanks.
Notice how in this short commercial that everyone is doing something that gets noticed. Now I am not saying that what they are doing is wrong, we should all strive to do the right thing. However what I do want to point out is that our tendency is to only do the right thing, to only serve when others see. The Bible calls us to not only serve in broad daylight but to serve well behind the scenes.
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
(Matthew 6:1-4 ESV)
Jesus is giving us some principles for spirituality in religious life; he is showing us not only what we should be doing as Christians, but what our mindset should be. It’s easy for us to serve, or give when others see, because that’s easy. However Jesus draws a very clear line between that and how we should indeed serve. Jesus isn’t meerly pointing to what we are doing, but why we are serving. Are we serving for others? Ourselves? To be recognized? Or for God? Which reward is better, the complements or praises that people will give you for serving, or the reward that God has for us?
The religious leaders of Jesus’ time received their rewards for giving to the needy. They received their praise from others for obeying the command to give to the needy. The irony here is amazing, you see they had received their reward of public and profesional acclaim, but that was all the reward they would ever receive. We must see that such fleeting human adulation precludes satisfaction of the deep longing of people’s hearts to stand approved by their Father who sees in secret.
Serving well behind the scenes is not easy, it often times goes unnoticed by others. In sports this is the most evident. The athlete gets all the praise, they are the one in front of all the spectators scoring points, driving in home runs, or kicking the game winning field goal, but a lot of times its the training team that puts in just as much hard work to get that athlete on the field. They are bandaging them up on the sidelines, or fixing their equipment problems, or coming up with the plays to put them in those positions.
What does that look like for you? The Bible is clearly calling us to serve well behind the scenes, and we know that isn’t easy. In what way is God challenging your heart in how you serve, in your motivation for service towards others? Open your ears, your mind and heart to God’s insightful words. It’s not that public service is bad, its in how you go about serving that can be harmful.