Expectations of the Christmas Season, Let Your Light Shine Before Others – The Garrett Ashley Mullet Show
In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ says two things fairly close together in time, concerning the doing of good works for others to see, which at first blush appear to contradict one another.
First, he says we are the salt of the earth, and the light of the world. And salt that loses its taste gets thrown out and trampled, but no one lights a lamp so they can hide it. Therefore, we should not lose our saltiness, nor should we hide our lamp. But we should let our light shine before others so they can see our good works.
Not long after, however, he says what seems to be close to the opposite, warning against practicing our righteousness to be seen by people. If we do good works in this case, it would appear, our reward is only whatever our fellow mortals deem fit. Meanwhile, we should expect no blessing from the Almighty.
Which is it, then? Are we to do our good works before men, to be seen by them, or are we not to do that so we can please the Lord instead? It may surprise you to learn on closer reading of this passage that the answer is both, but that it depends on the intersection of the circumstance and our motives.
What we hope to get by way of reward for our good works makes quite a lot of difference in whether our good works would be better done privately, discretely, and even secretly.
On the one hand, if God gets more honor and glory, and other people are blessed all the more, with the good works being done for an audience of plus one, then we go that way. On the other hand, when the primary beneficiary will be us, and our reputation, then we should say we will not do our good works before men, but will choose what is better in something more like covert operations than a telethon.
Admittedly, though, sometimes it is not so clear where our own motives lie, since they are mixed. This is to say nothing about how our hearts can spin yarns which only we hear and believe. But I think that when it is the case, that we are not sure about what all is driving our desire to do something good, and right, and generous, we should do a bit of cost-benefit analysis with what the outcome is likely to be with private versus public charity.
If the outcome of public charity would be more honoring to God, and more beneficial to our fellow man – whether due to the setting of a good example, or the enlisting of partners in the project which could use their help and support – then we should do the good work as publicly as is practical, but watch what we say and do, and guard our hearts from spoiling the effect.
Sometimes it is a toss-up, however. It makes little to no discernable difference pragmatically, even as the odds of doing more harm to our souls and those of others is impossible to know.
In these lattermost cases, we should pay close attention to the meaning of the word “beware,” in what Jesus says about our righteousness that is seen by others. And if it’s all the same, then we should keep our good works as quiet and private as we can, so as to get a better reward from God.
If it comes out all the same, and is made known to others, despite our best efforts to be discrete, then we can have a clear conscience. What’s more, it is likely that our favor will increase all the more before man in this case than if we had been trying to produce that effect.
As Christ goes on to say shortly after these two admonitions in Matthew’s gospel account, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
This Episode’s Links:
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