“Morning by morning, O Lord, you hear my voice”
Being Seen but Not to be Seen
(Please read Matthew 5:14-16)
Part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount included the wonderful closing sentence in our text: “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (NIV).
The object of letting our lights shine is to bring praise to our Father, and the way to make our lights shine is to do good deeds. Sometimes people get confused on this point because they remember that Jesus taught against practicing piety to be seen by others. That was a little later in this same sermon (see 6:5, 16-18).
Is there a conflict between these two parts of Jesus’ sermon? It all depends on how we go about our good deeds and our purpose in doing them. It’s the difference between doing and being seen and doing to be seen. The same deed can make your light shine or can result in God’s disapproval. If you take food to a poor family because you want to alleviate their suffering, your light will shine. But if you do it to bring praise to yourself, that’s like people who disfigure themselves to show everybody they’re fasting.
Individual Christians must be careful about letting their generosity become widely known, for fear of coming to enjoy the praise of others more than the satisfaction of doing good for the Lord’s sake. These words are written not to deter anyone from doing good deeds but to help us remember that the purpose of good deeds is to bring praise to God, not to us.