When I was a child, I hid activities I didn’t want my parents – and older siblings – to know. I could excuse the behavior because it wasn’t breaking one of the BIG TEN.
There were other things I did I wanted my parents to see and applaud me for doing. If I worked harder than my sister or received good grades, I wanted to be noticed.
To be honest, neither of these proclivities worked out well for me. Often the thing I tried to hide was discovered and the thing I wanted seen went unnoticed.
In my reading today, I noticed a particular emphasis coming through repeatedly. In Jesus’ reframing of a couple of the commandments – murder and adultery, specifically – he reminded his listeners that the hidden attitudes of the heart are just as damaging as the overt action of our hands. In essence, you can’t hide behind that pretty face!
In Matthew 6, he emphasized the importance of privacy. Privacy in good deeds, giving to others, spiritual disciplines like prayer and fasting – all of these should be done privately to be seen by Father who gives rewards. In essence, anonymous is the way to go.
Throughout scripture an attentive reader learns that God is omniscient. In other words, he knows all things. Check out this one example in Psalm 139:
O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!Psalm 139:1-6
I suppose some might be freaked out by that…he knows everything, even what I am going to say before I say it. Maybe that is why I get a check in my spirit at times. It is the Holy Spirit cautioning me to change my words or to speak the words he gives me.
Jesus’ emphasis in these verses – God sees all and will reward or withhold reward accordingly – is also seen in Jesus’ interaction with others. More than once, religious leaders doubted his identity and he knew their thoughts (Matthew 9:4; Matthew 12:25; Luke 6:8). At times it was the disciples who were talking among themselves and Jesus knew their thoughts (Luke 9:47). He didn’t just know what people were thinking, he also knew the motives of their hearts. One day as he observed people putting their offering in the box, he saw many rich people give large amounts of money and a widow put in a very small amount of money. Knowing this was all she had, he commended her. (Mark 12:41-44)
Awareness that God sees all should be a comfort, not a fearful thing. Performing for praise from people is the opposite of how God wants us to live. While it is true that our good deeds will be noticed (after all, our good deeds point people to God and incite praise to him), the motivation for good deeds is not human praise.
Jesus reveals God to us. He reminds us it is the intentions of our heart that are his concern, not just outward actions. Outward actions are done to point others to the Father, not for personal recognition. How do we respond to this all- knowing character trait of God, seen in Jesus?
Come back tomorrow to consider our response…