Secret Service

Now Jesus turns from misinterpretations of the Law of God by the scribes and the Pharisees to hypocritical practices of which they were guilty. His goal: To explain what He meant when He said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (5:20). Unlike hypocrites in every age, followers of Christ must not practice their piety before men, in order to be seen by them. Instead, they must seek the favor of God alone. Jesus assumes that we will do good deeds, works of charity that provide practical help to others in need. We shall read later that He counseled the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor (19:21). He told a powerful parable about the final judgment, when we shall be evaluated according to whether we provided our fellow Christians with food, drink, shelter, clothing, and visits to the sick and imprisoned (25:34—40). But we absolutely must not offer any service in order to show off; we must not seek to impress others with our goodness. Only God must know what we have done for others. Indeed, we should be so un-self-conscious about our good deeds that our left hand must not know what the right hand is doing! Unlike the self-promoting religious leaders of Jesus’ day – and countless others since them – we must eschew any attempt to seek the praise of men. If we do, then their approval is all we shall reap as a reward. On the contrary, Jesus commands us to serve in secret, where only the omniscient God can see what we are doing. To that command our Lord adds a promise, “And your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (See also Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:5-11; Galatians 6:6-8; Ephesians 6:8; Psalm 62:12). That reward will come on the last day, when charitable Christians will receive everlasting life as their recompense, and will hear their Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (25:23). Is that not reward enough?