It's been four and a half months since I last posted. So many changes and transitions. I received an email from blog follower today who challenged me to begin posting again and asked a good question in the process. She wondered when it's appropriate for Christians to "highlight" their commitments. Specifically, this last Sunday, I challenged our congregation to "Redefine Community" [see http://ow.ly/i/7dNc ] and practice some "new normal" commitments this week. Then, I encouraged them to prayerfully consider a new rhythm in their spiritual life that would reflect a biblical expression of community. Write their commitment on the insert provided and post it on the back wall of the Worship Center this Sunday.
My friend rightly wondered how this fit with Jesus' warning in Matthew 6:1-4:
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 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 men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 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. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
By posting our new resolutions, do we risk violating Jesus' command? Would it be better for our commitments to be secret? Should we prevent the left hand from knowing what the right hand is doing?
The issue comes down to motive and motivation. The issue Jesus was addressing in this text is one of motive: What is the reason why anyone might publicly announce their works of righteousness? If their intent is "to be seen by men" [v. 1], then the applause of men becomes their reward [v. 2] and they miss the greater reward of God's pleasure. Jesus' point: It's better to have heaven cheer for you than to receive a pat on the back from others.
However, when our intent is to motivate others, the public testimony of our works can be very helpful. Take, for example, the platform testimony of a missionary. When they explain their commitment, the suffering they have faced, the obstacles they have overcome and the victories that they have experienced, they stir the hearts of their hearers. Their stories aren't intended to draw attention to themselves, but to excite the hearts of people of what is possible with God. Their motive is to motivate. For this reason, we have asked people not to put their names on their posted inserts this Sunday.
In a day when so much of religion is considered "private," it's good to remember that God encourages His people to be public with their spiritual lives. Boldly highlight what God is doing in your life. And, if you say it, write it, express it in a way that makes less of you and more of God, you have done it with the right motive and great motivation.