March 16 I Tuesday
“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
The opening verse occurs in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, but interestingly, Jesus said only minutes earlier, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). At first glance, this may seem contradictory. How could Jesus condemn and condone doing good deeds before others in the same sermon?
The problem is we often confuse mere acts of righteousness, doing the right things, for righteousness itself. Righteousness is God’s moral character, and because He created human beings in His image, He intended for us to be righteous as well. We were made to share and display His moral character, but Paul warns that since the Fall, “there is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). There is a vacuum in every human heart between what we are and what we are supposed to be. We want deep down to be good, but because sin has separated us from God, no amount of doing the right things will make us into right people.
Righteousness is not earned but imputed to us when we are united with Christ. Paul writes of Jesus, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Christ became what we are so we might become what He is. The only possibility of becoming righteous is by receiving the life of the righteous One, the Lord Jesus Christ, to live within us.
The difference between Jesus’s two comments about doing good deeds has to do with the source of our acts of righteousness. If we are the source, the aim is to draw attention to ourselves, to develop our reputations, but if the source is the God who indwells us and makes us righteous, then the aim is to point others to God so they will praise Him. The latter is how Jesus lived His life as a man. He did everything in submission to His Father’s authority, by His Father’s empowering and for His Father’s glory. If we are always looking over our shoulders to get the approval and applause of others, we will struggle to live the righteous life God intended for us.
If the source of what we do is ourselves, the effect will be human; if the source is God, the effect will be godly. The mark of genuine spiritual life in believers is that as we interact with others, they in some measure become conscious of God because our lives point the way to Christ, the source of true righteousness.
Prayer: Precious Lord, align my heart with Your heart so that the only praise I am concerned with is Yours. Thank You for being the origin of righteousness for all who believe. Amen!