Good men, I have come to learn something about myself; my own righteousness is not very righteous. You see, I have a tendency towards self-righteousness. At times, I find myself craving and yearning for people to admire me. Men, like many of you, I have a need. Perhaps a better way to phrase it is that I have a want for approval and recognition. Dale Carnegie said it like this, “the desire to feel important is the strongest urge in the world.” Maybe this need for recognition, this desire to feel important is why Jesus begins the section of the Sermon on the Mount with the words, “Be Careful” (Matt. 6:1).
Throughout this section, Jesus is warning us against our greatest temptation; the temptation to act piously to bring about recognition from others. Our goal for serving the needy, for prayer, for fasting and all of our other acts of righteousness should be done to impress God alone. By practicing our righteousness in a way that is only seen by God, our Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward us (Matt. 6:4, 6, 18).
This Week’s Challenge: Evaluate your practice of righteousness. Are you like the hypocrites who do things to be seen and recognized by others? Or do you practice righteousness out of love for God? To help answer these questions, with your next practice of righteousness, ask yourself this question, "Would I still do this if no one would ever knew I did it?"