Am I keeping my motivation for doing good works to be seen by God, rather than others?
1 "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. - Matthew 6:1-4
I have a heart of compassion and genuinely desire to help those that God brings across my path. However, I think one of the best opportunities God ever gave me to help someone, was tainted by my deep need to be honored by others. It was eight years ago when it happened, but it was few years later before I could begin to see some of my disgusting motives. It was so upsetting to me when I saw it, that I eventually called and confessed in tears to the person’s mother. Perhaps God was merciful to me because of my ignorance and lack of spiritual maturity at the time, but I am still humbled when I think about it today.
Jesus’ teaching above seems to contradict others like, Mt 5:16, Jn 13:35, Jam 3:13, 1 Pet 2:12. However, the difference lies in our motivation. If our aim for doing good deeds is to be seen by others, rather than God, we will lose our reward. Instead, we are to believe in faith that God sees and rewards us in His time and in His way. This command is so easily broken because of the inherent need for human approval, which is built right into the sinful nature. The desire for human approval has been the hardest thing to kill in me. It took several years and even after I lost everything, I still had to constantly fight this monster of my pride. I finally got so disgusted with it that I cried out in anguish to God to please kill it off. It took several years, but I can tell you that there is freedom available in this area through complete death to self and life by the Spirit. Like all temptations, the desire to gain human approval can still come into our minds from time to time, but if you are still struggling with this regularly, cry out to God to put it to death. Be willing to lose your self-life to Him, and He will give you freedom from this horrendous beast. I never realized how exhausting it was always trying to win others over, until I began seeing freedom from it. I want even more than I have now, and I praise Christ as I continue to grow in this area.
Finally, I personally do not interpret Jesus to be saying that we must give anonymously, such that we don’t even let the person we are helping know (unless of course you choose to do so). Rather, I believe Jesus is warning about us letting others know, but not the person for whom the gift is given. My conclusion is based primarily on Luke 16:9, where Jesus commands us to use our worldly wealth to “gain friends for yourselves…so you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” How can we gain friends for ourselves (here), if the person doesn’t know who gave them the gift? See also Acts 2:45, 10:2, 2 Cor 8:13-15, Heb 7:2.