We all enjoy a bit of spotlight. Have you ever read a Facebook status along the lines of “Jane is headed to the grocery store”? Okay, thanks for the update, Jane. I’m sure we’ve all cringed at a frivolous FB status or perhaps even authored one ourselves because we just needed someone to know or care about what we were doing. Or maybe your life updates sound more like mine: “Judd, I’ve picked up your shoes a million times this week, and I wasn’t going to say anything, but you haven’t noticed!” All we want is a little bit of notice, a smidge of empathy or even a timely commendation, for crying out loud.
And we are all crying out loud, aren’t we? We post a picture to Instagram of an atypical crafting success and feel a puff a pride at our accomplishment. We twitter our personal (unsolicited and absolutely) correct opinion about the best (and only) route to educating our children and feel a twinge of superiority. We pipe up with a (wholly) unique insight during Bible study and thrill at the assenting nods of those sitting within our periphery. We routinely volunteer to take meals to families in the church and hope our Pastor checks the sign-up lists to see what a good Christian we’re being. To those and to me, I say: you have your reward.
Here’s the problem. When we actively seek the praise of others, we divert the praise from God effectively idolizing self with every word and deed, picture and post.
Here’s a crazy thought. Nowhere in Scripture do we see God instructing us to utilize our platforms or make our voices heard. In true backwards fashion, God directs us to a hidden life. A life given to the glory of God and not to the elevation of self. Nowhere do we see this theme so blatantly explored than Matthew 6:1-18:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (6:1).
Can Matthew be any clearer? If you do and serve and post to get attention well then that blip of notice becomes the extent of your reward. You earned a reward of your own making. On the other hand, if you quietly live in obedience to God and His Word whether or not anyone is noticing because you know that God knows well then your reward is coming:
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do . . . that they may be praised by others, Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (6:3-4).
Matthew urges us to pursue a life seen by One instead of many. He’s not trying to deprive us: he’s showing us the path to true fulfillment. He warns us not to forfeit the Father’s reward for a second of praise. Don’t pray to impress others, pray in a closet: keep prayer about God and you. Don’t give to raise the eyebrows of others, give secretly to honor the Father “who sees in secret.” Don’t disfigure yourself while fasting to ensure someone’s inquiry . . . unless of course, you’re willing to exchange an eternal reward for a fleeting commendation (cue delayed gratification).
If this hidden life sounds a bit dull then perhaps you’re forgetting the magnitude and worthiness of your God. Perhaps you’ve forgotten that your life was bought at an incredible price—the death of the God-man. How can we ever repay Him? We can’t. But we can give Him the honor He utterly deserves by walking the hidden life of faith, a life dedicated to His cause instead of our own. Consider Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that that He rewards those who seek Him.” Really it’s mind-blowing that God would not only save us wretched sinners but also reward us with the gift of Himself.
The truth is we readily forget the worth of God in favor of our own worth. We idolize self by wordlessly asserting we deserve the praise instead of God. Or we live in unbelief and doubt that God sees, cares or rewards our service to Him. Oh we are an over-puffed, silly people. The God who watches the sparrow certainly has His eyes on you. The God who spared not the life of His Son surely cares about the life He bought with that blood. Be humbled. Be amazed. Believe that He is and that He rewards those who seek Him. The best part of this hidden life is that God sees and nothing is wasted on Him.
Because when you hang on to your last shred of patience as you lovingly discipline your thrashing, shrieking child, God sees. God rewards. And because you chose faithfulness when no one else was watching, your obedience really was just for Him.
When you choke back that sarcastic comment you were ready to hurl at your husband and feel frustrated that no one knows the effort it took to do so, you can remind yourself—God sees. God knows. God rewards. And that’s more than enough.
Whether or not you wish to acknowledge it, all of life is all about God. And the best way to make much of Him is to make little of yourself: He must increase, I must decrease. You want to be seen, heard, understood and loved? Then orient yourself to God who sees everything, hears your spoken and unspoken thoughts, understands your weaknesses and perfectly loves you anyway. Draw near to Him in obedience, and He will draw near to you. He will fill up your sight and crowd out all the other petty, loud distractions in your life. Live in obedience before God because He will bring more fulfillment than any paltry thing this world can offer. Here’s the goal:
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24
Yes, you (speck of dust, one of millions, chosen and redeemed) are serving THE LORD CHRIST.