“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." - Matthew 6:1-4
As we see from this passage, humans have behaved the same way for a long time. Jesus saw a group of people who did all the right things for all the wrong reasons. His words are clear and direct. It is not just this crowd he called out. When I pause and consider my actions, I am called to account. Why do I do what I do? I confess and repent, I want my good deeds to be recognized by people. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, I desire to walk in humility. The praise of people is a crummy reward compared to the reward of the Father. There is more to life than the praise of man.
In what ways does Jesus' teaching impact local churches? Clearly, as stated above, his words impact individuals. What about churches and other Christian institutions? Does our church do good deeds in order to be recognized by others? As our church does outreach and service at events, do these verses impact the way we do these things? Jesus does not honor marketing passes. Churches are called to function with institutional and missional piety. Slapping the name of our church on everything we do seems like a good idea. But I wonder... Would Jesus turn to us and say "Church beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them?" Is it possible for an institution to be known by people and unknown by God? Let us never settle for that! We want a greater reward than public recognition.