Today, high profile celebrity preachers entice us by saying God will reward our religious acts, especially if we openly demonstrate that we are righteous people. They have even written books in order to tell you how to earn God’s favor and blessing. And so some Christians put their faith on display calling attention to their giving of large gifts. Others will step forward to offer long wordy prayers. But if this is the formula to gain God’s favor, how do we explain Jesus’ warnings?
The opposite behavior is just as dangerous. Only a small percentage of Christians are truly generous in their giving. Few Christians fast and even fewer are comfortable leading public prayer. Either Christians today dismiss the importance of these faithful practices, or we have become very good at hiding our fasting, giving and prayer from the public eye.
Jesus warns about making a spectacle of our piety, but he stops short of dismissing faithful acts of discipleship. With these warnings, Jesus knocks down the self-righteous and affirms faithful practice. Our Lord humbles us to the degree that we know and understand that we are not actually the righteous ones, but ones made righteous through his suffering and death. Because of Christ, God quietly rewards us with the inheritance of his kingdom.
In the quiet of my heart, O God, I offer you my praise and thanksgiving, through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.