In this world construct that we live in, you don’t believe something until you see it; with Christ’s kingdom, you won’t see anything until you believe it. Its subversive nature confounds the wise and resists the proud. By faith, not by sight, we understand that this invisible kingdom frames everything we do see (Heb.11:3).
We’ve been looking under the hood (bonnet for you Brits) of our soul, so to speak, letting Jesus deal with the relational issues of the heart that can hinder the cooperative process with God for our transformation, along with the health of our relationships with each other. And only His Spirit can reveal these hidden things in us.
We’ve already looked at how Jesus answers the two questions, “What is the good life?” and “Who is a good person?” In Matthew chapter six, He deals with seeking reputation from others and finding our security from material wealth. We will look at the first one today.
Reputation versus re-formation
When we don’t find our affirmation and identity as sons and daughters of Abba Father (Gal.4:4-6), we will act like spiritual orphans trying to find approval through others. This is especially true with regard to demanding respectability, which is how the scribes and Pharisees got their affirmation.
“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. (Matt.6:1-4 *)
First, Jesus isn’t saying that we should never do our deeds in public; the point is, we don’t do them to be seen by others. It’s about why we’re doing what we do.
Hypocrite was a very familiar term in Jesus’ day. It comes from classical Greek which refers to play actors on a stage. Generally speaking, it’s someone who’s not really who they appear to be on the outside. As Dallas Willard said, Jesus used this word seventeen times in the Gospels to make the distinction between our face to the world and our person before Christ (The Divine Conspiracy).
The “Christian” version of a hypocrite would be one who professes Christ, looks and talks like a Christ follower, but has not allowed Him to remove the “plank” from their eye (Matt.7:1-5), which is what this whole series is about.
As Willard goes on to say, the desire for religious respectability will immediately drag us into the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. Our motive will be to look spiritual or important to others rather than doing things from a life formed through Christ’s other-centered, self-giving love. There’s nothing wrong with titles or even receiving awards, but seeking them, especially demanding them, is quite another thing. Christ’s kingdom operates quite differently.
In fact, Jesus launched the sharpest criticism against the Pharisees’ hypocrisy in Matthew 23, condemning their desire for religious titles and seeking honor from men:
5 “They do good things so that other people will see them. They enlarge the little boxes holding Scriptures that they wear, and they make their special prayer clothes very long. 6 Those Pharisees and teachers of the law love to have the most important seats at feasts and in the synagogues. 7 They love people to greet them with respect in the marketplaces, and they love to have people call them ‘Teacher.’ (Matt.23:5-7 NCV *)
Then, Jesus goes on to tell us not to be like them…
8 “But you must not be called ‘Teacher,’ because you have only one Teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters together. 9 And don’t call any person on earth ‘Father,’ because you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 And you should not be called ‘Master,’ because you have only one Master, the Christ. 11 Whoever is your servant is the greatest among you. (Matt.23:8-11 NCV *)
Context is important here. Again, we’re talking about what motivates us. We know from other Scripture that teachers and spiritual fathers and mothers are an important part of the body of Christ. It’s using this position of authority to take advantage of, or to place oneself over, another that Jesus condemns. We’re all equal as brothers and sisters in Christ. If we wish to lead others, we do so by serving them for their benefit, not for ours.
The Kingdom motivation
We must decide if we’re going to follow after Christ or the praises of others. The only motivation behind what we do for God, and others, should come from our hidden life with Him, compelled by His other-centered, self-giving love…not out of duty or fear, not for reputation, fame, wealth, or the approval of others.
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Cor.5:14-15 NIV *)