I’m an exhibitionist,” said the surrealist artist Salvador Dali. “Life is too short to remain unnoticed.” And actress Marlene Dietrich once released an album made entirely of the applause recorded at her cabarets—which she frequently played for her friends.
The desire for praise is never far from any of us. We want people to applaud our qualities and achievements. We can be deeply disappointed when they don’t notice the good things we’ve done for them.
Applause-seeking is most ugly when it’s tied to religiosity. In Jesus’ day, prayer, fasting, and charity were (and still are today) central to Jewish piety. But Jesus saw how easily they could be wrongly used for personal motivations. “Watch out!” He said. “Don’t do your good deeds publicly” (Matthew 6:1). “When you pray,” He said, “don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners” (Matthew 6:5). “And when you fast,” He added, “don’t make it obvious” (Matthew 6:16). Jesus’ reason was clear: When such spirituality is done to make us look good, the applause we receive will be our only reward. The One whose praise matters most will turn a blind eye (Matthew 6:1,5,16).
Jesus said that true acts of faith would be hard to hide. A city on a hill can’t be hidden (Matthew 5:14). Our deeds are to be seen by all (Matthew 5:16). But these deeds flow from a heart focused on our neighbor; a heart that prays and fasts for God’s delight alone. It should go like this: We keep quiet about our deeds, let our lives speak for themselves, and let God decide when and if our deeds ever become known.
Let’s keep our good deeds quiet, knowing that “your Father, who sees everything, will reward you” (Matthew 6:4,6,18).
Taken from “Our Daily Journey”