A few weeks ago, I wrote the following in my personal journal:
“I have a hard time knowing how to handle these two passages:
‘Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need don’t do as the hypocrites do – blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.’ (Matthew 6:1-4; NLT)
‘You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts in under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.’ (Matthew 5:14-16; NLT)
So, which is it? Good deeds for everyone to see? Or in secret so only God sees? Both verses are Jesus talking.”
In my journal, I wrote about specific circumstances and situations. I wanted to know if there was a difference between financial good deeds and other types of good deeds. I evaluated my heart. What were my reasons for doing good deeds? Was doing good deeds a big enough part of my life?
I don’t write every day, but here is what I like about it. On this particular day, I didn’t merely read and go about my life. I struggled through what I was reading. And then, because I had written it down, the things I had read in the morning continued to come to mind throughout the day.
I continued to think and ponder these things in my heart. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, I had an “A-HA!” moment.
What seemed to me, at first, to be a contradiction, was something completely different.
The big idea here, isn’t whether or not we tell people about our good deeds. The big idea is the motive and lifestyle behind them.
In essence, are good deeds being done “to be admired by others” or in order “that everyone will praise your heavenly Father?”
In the first scenario, a good deed is performed as an exception, not a rule. In today’s terms, it would likely accompany a picture on Instagram with a profound caption. The good deed supposedly done for someone else, may actually have been done to get a little pat on the back and some accolades from peers.
The second scenario, however, has good deeds of an entirely different purpose. These deeds are done because it is in our nature to do them. Let’s read that verse again:
“You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deed shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
When we turn on a lamp, it is designed to spread light. It cannot help but do so. It is in the nature of that light. When we allow our lives to be transformed by Jesus, it becomes our nature to bring him glory. Good deeds become a compulsion that we must complete because of the power of His word at work in our lives.
You guys, I’m getting chills at this point.
The reason these deeds shine out? It isn’t because we’ve told anyone or done anything to make it obvious. Our deeds shine out because they become part of our identity in Christ. People see them not because we’ve pointed out our own awesomeness; they seem them because they become such a big part of our lives, we don’t even realize we are doing them.
Lord, may my life be such a representation of Your love.
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way that I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples – when they see the love that you have for each other.” (John 13:35; MSG)