Story of the Day for Friday June 17, 2011
Two Pairs of Pants
Be careful that you don’t practice your righteousness before people to be seen by them. For if you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, has just finished saying we should let our light shine so that people “will SEE our good deeds” and praise the Father in heaven. Now he says we must not practice our righteousness before people to be SEEN by them.
When you read both these verses side-by-side they seem to contradict each other, don’t they? Well, not to take away the suspense or anything, but Jesus is not contradicting himself.
When Jesus says we should not do our righteous acts before others to be seen by them, he is talking about showing off. Don’t be a religious show-off.
The Pharisees loved to be admired for their righteousness. But it’s no fun being superior to other people if nobody notices. So, they took pains to call attention to their incredible holiness. When they gave to the needy, they announced their generosity withy trumpets. When they prayed they just happened to be reciting their daily prayers on busy street corners. When they fasted, they would screw up their faces funny so people could see they were fasting. Not only that, but the early Christians talk about the Pharisees fasting twice a week: on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In ancient Palestine, “market day” was – do you want to guess? – Tuesday and Thursday.
Hypocrites are not religious to serve God. They are really serving themselves. That is why Jesus is telling us that do the right things for the wrong reason doesn’t count.
But when Jesus tells us to let our light shine so that people will see our good deeds, the focus is not on us, but letting people see the amazing things God does in people.
Once I had to attend a religious meeting, a suit coat and tie kind of meeting. I drove down to the area the night before. Since my old car needed frequent care under the hood, I drove in grubby, oily jeans.
It wasn’t until the next morning as I put on my suit and tie that I realized my suit pants did not accompany me on the trip. So, I raced through town looking for a clothing store. I grabbed some nice slacks off the rack, paid for them, ran to my car, and put them on in the front seat. I strolled (out of breath) into the meeting looking cool and casual, a fine specimen of formal attire.
Not until after lunch did a brave soul approach me and asked if I realized there were price tags and stickers hanging from my butt.
Those two pairs of pants have become a metaphor of the extremes I need to avoid in life. I don’t want to be grubby with sin and leave oil stains everywhere I sit. On the other hand, I don’t want to be proud of how new and clean my pants are, and strut around with the tags on.
When you let your light shine, make sure people are looking to the source.
(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)