Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Not On Stage

"Be especially careful when you're trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theater but the God who made you won't be applauding" Matt. 6:1.

Can you imagine if Jesus, like some people today, insisted on His name being attached to public edifices. The Pool of Bethesda could be re-branded to the Jesus Miracle Healing Waters Pool. On the road to Jairus' house there could be a star in the street like those in Hollywood. "Jesus, Healer of Female Infirmities." Let's not forget the cliff in the Gadarenes area, the famous "Jesus' Pig Drop Zone." A good portion of Israel and the surrounding area could have sported His moniker if He were so inclined.

I appreciate the practice of honoring generous benefactors, but I wonder. Would some give so liberally if they weren't recognized and lauded now and into perpetuity? With time, the name on the facade becomes just that...a name. The significance gets lost.

Jesus believed it important that we know His kingdom operates differently. Our underlying motives are more important than our outward actions. To drive home the point, Jesus focused on the hot buttons favored by the religious folks of His day: giving, praying and fasting.

The Babylon Bee is this generation's version of The Wittenberg Door; a great source of Christian satire. No one is immune, they poke fun across all denominational lines. Read it long enough and you'll wince.

Recently their "news" article centered around the angst associated with electronic contributing. An un-identified male took advantage of his church's online giving option. However, he began to experience paranoia when the collection plate was passed. He perceived his fellow parishioners noticed that he didn't put anything in and feared he was garnering a reputation for stinginess. He felt the penetrating glares of disapproval from the folks plunking their money in the basket. Who knew giving online in the privacy of one's home could be so stressful?

The story is a complete fabrication, but it depicts the point that Jesus made. Putting money in the plate at church, and even online, strictly for the purpose of being recognized is giving with the wrong motive. Most people really don't care. If they do, they're the ones with a problem. Only One needs to know and He doesn't miss anything.

People are the same. Jesus' society applauded the success stories, hero-worshipped celebrities and left the average person scrambling for a scrap of the limelight. Some in Judaism emulated popular culture. With demonstrative public acts of generosity, prayer and fasting they competed for the title of "Most Righteous Person." Jesus, however, already had sole ownership of that designation and refused to play along with their game. He wants His followers to do the same.

We like to feel appreciated, especially if we've sacrificed. Receiving heart-felt thanks is perfectly acceptable. Turning something into a self-promotional event is another matter. The Kingdom of God shouldn't be filled with super-star attention grabbers, just ordinary people under the radar doing extraordinary things by the power of God. Just like Jesus.

How about you? How do the perceptions of others affect your actions. When it comes to what you do, how do you deal with the urge for notoriety? What self-imposed boundaries keep your ego in check? How much and what, if anything, would you change if God didn't care about our motives?

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