Jesus taught that we should pray by going into our inner room, closing the door, and praying to the unseen Father. The Father then, who sees what is done in secret will reward us. Jesus also taught that our giving should be done such that left hand does not know what our right hand is doing. In teaching this way, Jesus seems to be advocating a “secret discipleship.”
By contrast, Jesus said that we are cities on a hill, shining brightly for all to see. That’s not very secretive. Peter told us to keep our behavior excellent among the Gentiles, a clarion call to behavior that is seen. Paul told the church at Colossae to “live wisely” among those who do not believe, looking for opportunities to teach them. He further told the church at Rome to live decently as in the daytime.
These seem to be differing, and even contradictory messages, but a closer examination shows that they are not. Context is critical to our reading and our understanding, and context reveals that Jesus is concerned far less with our behavior than he is with the driving motivation behind the behavior.
When Peter said to keep our behavior excellent among the pagans, there was a reason offered for doing so. “…so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. The purpose for our excellent behavior is that God receive the glory. When Jesus said to be careful of our acts of righteousness, he went straight to motive. In Matthew 6:1, he said, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.” Again, in verse five, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.
There is an “up front” mentality in the body. I’ve seen it, and so have you. Let it not be so among us. The glory is for God and God alone, for he alone is worthy of it. We are mere servants who bow before the king.
Victoriously in Christ!