Jesus warned against the temptation to grandstand (in Matthew 6):
“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.”
Note the heavy irony on the word “righteousness.” Read it again:
“Be careful not to practice your [so-called] “righteousness” in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”
There are a few suggestions as to what this might look like. Public prayer, giving, worship.
The danger is that you will do it “to be seen by men” or “honoured by them.”
Of course, we may well not even realise that that is what we’re doing. We may think that we have “a ministry” or that we’re serving God in this way. What about that bit where it says “Let your light shine”?
So that’s why Jesus said “Be careful.” Consider just what it is that you’re doing. Sometimes a desire to “Minister” in some way can be wrapped up in a desire to be approved of, or to “shine” a little, before a congregation.
That’s why Jesus went on to say “Let your light shine before men….that they might see your good works and glorify God.” Just who is getting honoured here, really?
That is to say, if there is any tiny part of your heart that desires human applause or approval, then that is the only reward you will get.
So what’s to do? Give in secret, without any fuss. Pray in secret, just between you and God. Worship in secret without any fanfare of “babbling like pagans.” Avoid display.
Just play it down. Things don’t have to have capital letters. I can encourage my friends to worship God and be part of it without saying “Now I’m a Worship Leader.” I can care for people in trouble without saying: “Hey, I’m a Pastor.” I can quieten myself and hear God speaking without saying “I have a Prophetic Gift.”
The worst case scenario of all this is what we see in the Bible, when Jesus calls such grandstanding people “Hypocrites.” It was a word that meant “actors,” people acting a role for public applause.
We see people like Peter trying to sort Jesus out (in Mark 8) and Jesus saying “You are minding the things of men and not the things of God.”
And later, (in Mark 9) wanting to build little booths on the mount of transfiguration because “He knew not what to say.”
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness [–or your brilliant notions, Peter!]-in front of others to be seen by them”.
And we hear of Diotrephes (in one those little Letters of John) who “loved to be first.”
Now we don’t know precisely what the deal was with Diotrephes, but it does seem clear that he wanted to be “in front of others to be seen by them.”
How about you?