|September 9, 2019
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven.” Matthew 6:1 (CSB)
Recently I took a train trip to spend a few days with a friend. After making a scheduled stop, the train pulled out of the depot, slowly meandering through the countryside.
Before it reached full speed, we came to a wide space of fields, where mostly brown and beige weeds and overgrown briars grew as far as the eye could see. However, ahead in the distance, my eye caught a sudden splash of brilliant lavender standing in stark contrast to the bland, unbecoming foliage.
In a few minutes, this patch of purple came more clearly into view. When it did, I spied the biggest and most gorgeous lilac bush I’ve ever seen, with blooms so enormous I thought they might topple the bush right over. I thought to myself, What a shame this magnificent plant was situated way out there in the boondocks where hardly anyone could see it.
But you know what? The remote location of that breathtaking bush does not detract from its splendor. It matters not that it draws few onlookers. It is still a stunning display of growth and life. Not having an audience doesn’t make it any less lovely.
I’m learning that much of what God calls us to do in day-to-day life isn’t all flashy and post-worthy. Instead, it’s ordinary, intended to be done quietly, with no spotlight drawing attention to it.
Many of these actions involve other people. For example, followers of Christ are urged to treat others with thoughtfulness and consideration. “And be kind and compassionate to one another …” states Ephesians 4:32a (CSB). What might this look like?
It may be displaying kindness by packing a lunch for your husband or child on a morning when they’ve overslept and they’re trying to frantically get out of the house on time. It might be taking extra time in your day to straighten and clean a common workspace you share with a co-worker or to patiently play on the floor with a toddler. It could mean helping an elderly shopper load their groceries in their car when you see them struggling with a heavy bag.
Being compassionate might involve anonymously sending a gift card for a local restaurant to a family recovering from a death, or giving of your time, efforts or even money to help the marginalized and forgotten in your community or another part of the world.
Matthew 6:1 gives us a warning in performing such endeavors — righteous deeds that are right in God’s eyes: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven.”