Lenten Pitfall #5 – Being a Spiritual Show-off

fish - show-off

You know the type — they come to work tired after volunteering for their church pantry or the numerous committees they serve on, wear their ashes like a gold medal, and are sure to tell you about the many charities they support with their donations. Jesus had choice words about such individuals.

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Mt. 6:1-4)

There’s a wonderful book I read many years ago about this passage from Matthew — Magnificent Obsession, by Lloyd Douglas. The book was turned into a movie with Rock Hudson. The movie focused on the romance between the two stars, not the true message of the book. In the book the main character decided to literally follow what Jesus tells us to do in Matthew 6. He went about doing good works but made those he helped promise not to tell anyone. He then used these good works as “leverage” for more good deeds. Whenever someone tried to pay him back, he would tell them he had already used it up and couldn’t accept recompense. It truly was an obsession to do good.

I think about this book every time I hear this passage from Matthew. When confronted with spiritual show-offs, it can be so tempting to respond in kind, telling them all you are doing for God. But in doing so you rob yourself of the benefit of what you are doing.

Are you doing your good deeds to be seen by others and receive worldly rewards or are you doing them for God? If for God, then that is reward enough.

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