“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”
– Matthew 6:1 NASB
This sentence is Jesus speaking. It’s taken from the Sermon on the Mount.
Daily devotion to Jesus must include taking seriously the things that He said. Otherwise, we just make Jesus into a mute idol and ascribe to Him whatever views we already hold. Indeed, many people today make Jesus into the patron saint of their own idea of Christianity. A mascot instead of a master.
Jesus is neither a mute nor a mascot. He is a commander! Let us heed His instructions.
Through broadcast and social media you can see many people today “practicing their righteousness before men to be noticed by them.” People signal their virtue by the opinions they proclaim to hold. Virtue in America used to be about the life you lived – faithful husband, devoted father, hard worker, law-abiding citizen. Today, virtue in America is about the political and cultural positions you stake out.
For all its modern technology, 21st-century American society has become a primitive culture, marked more by rituals and taboos than by law and reason. Identity politics is just a gussied-up form of tribalism. You better be part of the right tribe because only tribes have rights – individuals sure don’t. Even believers in Christ can fall prey to this social architecture – banding in solidarity as Christians, only to sound like “We don’t smoke and we don’t chew and we don’t go with boys who do.” In its economic prosperity, America has declined into a sociocultural ghetto and we’re all pressured to join a gang just to survive the hostile environment.
God rules over the nations but He also deals with individuals – individual hearts. That’s why Jesus warned us to practice our righteousness before Him – not each other. What good is it if the whole world thinks you have all the right opinions on all the currently relevant subjects? Who is winning the culture wars in America is far less important than who is winning the culture war in your heart. Practice your righteousness before the world and you’ll find restlessness in your soul; practice it before Jesus and you’ll find His peace.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Father in heaven, let me seek only Your approval today. Let not my head be turned by earthly popularity and praise. As I go through this day, let me remember Your watchful eye…(this is where you remain quiet in order to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.