July 15 I Sunday
“Be careful not to practise your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” —Matthew 6:1
As Christians, our lives are driven either by the appetites of our hearts or the obligations we feel imposed on us. For example, we may go to church because we are eager to know more of God, Jesus Christ and what Scripture says, or we go because we have set aside Sunday mornings for when we are supposed to go. To use the language of Scripture, we are driven either by the life of Jesus Christ that comes from within or by the law that imposes from without. We are looking to Christ to inform and transform our desires, or in the absence of spiritual appetite, we may be looking over our shoulders to see if we are satisfying the expectations of other Christians.
The latter is what Jesus was talking about in the opening verse, contrasting true righteousness with “pseudo-righteousness.” He gives three examples as warnings not to do our acts of righteousness so they can be seen by other people. He warns of those who announce their giving with trumpets, who pray loudly so everyone can hear and who make the signs of their fasting obvious. These people have received their reward in full, Jesus says, because they think they have what they sought—the praise of others.
True righteousness has nothing to do with routine or impressing the people around us. When we are obligation driven our audience changes from heaven to earth. But when the life of God is within us, we discover an appetite for righteousness, which is actually an appetite for God, because He is where our righteousness is found.
The result of being appetite driven will be a change in how we interact with others because righteousness, the moral character of God, can only be experienced in the context of relationships. How are we to be loving, kind and merciful if we have no one to be loving, kind or merciful towards? The Christian life is nurtured and experienced in community with others. Our growing appetite for righteousness is evidenced in behaviours like how we spend our money, treat our spouses, drive our cars, talk to our neighbours and talk about our neighbours.
Peter writes of Christ, “He Himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). The Gospel is designed to produce the righteousness of Christ in human experience. The way we live and behave gives evidence of the authenticity of our Christian lives. Obligation sets us out to impress others, but the appetite for righteousness Christ places within us will progressively lead us to interact with others in such a way as to express the moral character of God.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I do not want to be driven by obligations or a need to impress others but by the appetite for righteousness You place in believers. Make this a reality in my life. Thank You, Jesus.