Checking Your Motives…um, I Mean My Motives

Tuesday Re-mix –

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 6:1

People who do not want anything to do with the church often accuse it of being “full of hypocrites”.  I have a theory about why they say that…

I have at least a couple of observations about Jesus’ words above..observations that apply directly to us as church leaders.

1.  This is not a word for you to apply to someone else…this is a Word from Jesus to you ABOUT YOU.  Even though I do get it wrong from time to time, I consider myself a student of grammar.  With all due respect to Mrs. Harris, Mrs. Stephens and Mrs. Seitz (my first three English teachers in high school) it was Ms. Peak, my 12th-grade English teacher who really convinced me that good grammar and good communication are related.  So let’s take the English translation of Jesus’ sentence in Matthew 6:1 and do some simple diagramming, shall we? (Is there anyone else out there who remembers diagramming sentences?)

mirror-or-manifying-glass“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.”  

Anybody know the subject of that sentence?  Anybody?

If you said the subject is implied and that it is an implied “You”…you get a gold star for today!  This is a word to “You”.  It is not a word about “them” or about “him” or “her”.  It is for you, and it is about you.

I once heard someone say that God’s Word is always more effective as a mirror than as a magnifying glass.  I love that concept.  It is perfect.  I believe we would all become better scholars of Biblical interpretation (and much better followers of Christ) if we would learn that.  As a church leader, I read this as a word to me about me and my leadership.  It is NOT a word for some other leader and his/her leadership.  It is for me.

2.  This is not a word about what I do…it is more a word about why I do it.  I do not have to tell you that there are books and websites and DVD’s and conferences galore out there about all the cool or good or spiritual things you and I should be doing as a church leader.  But this word from Jesus reveals a heart in the founder of this revolution we call Christianity that is more concerned with the motives behind the things we do than with the things themselves.

“Be careful not to practice…to be seen by them.”  The questions behind this counsel are simple but convicting: whose approval am I seeking?  Do I do the great things I do in order to get the approval of men?  Or am I seeking strictly the approval of God?  What motive is at the heart of my leadership?  When I hold up this Word from my Lord and look at my own reflection in it, what kind of heart do I see?  What is at my core?  What need in myself am I seeking to fulfill?  If my ministry is like Jeremiah’s, i.e., an entire lifetime of teaching without a single conversion, without any affirmation at all from men, can I still feel successful?  Or do I rather tie my success to the applause of men?

Never read this passage and allow it to conjure ridiculous images of arrogant pharisees screaming their prayers in public, giving you reason to sit back and feel good about yourself because, after all, you cannot possibly be that bad.  Rather, hear these words from your Savior and honestly ask yourself why you do the things you do as a leader.  It is a pretty healthy exercise, don’t you think?

© Blake Coffee

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