Recently someone took my blog post on listening to God to be a trumpeting of my own righteousness.
For sure, I am not immune to the sin of patting myself on the back, but that wasn't the case in this instance. If anything that was the most humbling and difficult post for me to write.
I don't think any of us enjoys confessing sin.
In this instance, I was trying to point others to God. I was trying to confess my sin because I had been humbled by the awareness of my lack of obedience - and encouraged by the obedience of another. The post wasn't about my success, but my struggle. I wasn't the example of how to do it right; someone else was.
In the end, I did update the post to reflect the fact that I eventually obeyed the Lord. Before I did that, two different friends lovingly encouraged and admonished me to follow through on the Lord's prompting. I recognized that it was important to acknowledge that so the post didn't leave the impression that it's appropriate to ignore what God puts on your heart.
Because I do, indeed, know my heart and goal in writing that post, I don't feel the need to defend it further.
The situation did, however, result in a beautiful study of God's Word.
Sometimes, it seems God's Word is contradictory. It isn't, of course. But sometimes it seems it is.
For instance, Jesus says:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6)
Yet, in the chapter prior, Matthew records Jesus saying this:
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
So which is it? Is there a contradiction?
I think Jesus makes it clear, in chapter 6, that He is referring to those who do good works not out of obedience or out of a good heart - but in order to be noticed by men. For these people, that recognition is all of the reward they will receive.
Compared to the passage in Matthew 5, we can see Jesus' emphasis clearly. The good works that please God are those that are done "in such a way" that men see them and glorify God for them.
Isn't it intriguing that both passages talk about man's "religious" work done in such a way as to be noticed by men? One way is praised and the other way is condemned.
It would seem the crux of the matter is to whom we seek to direct those people to when they see our good works: me or God?
I have an older friend who just overflows with good works. I don't get to see her often, so I don't even see many of the things she does for others. I hear about them, in large part, from other people. But, I have heard about them from her as well. While she has never said, "look at what I'm doing," in telling about her life or in encouraging others the stories just come out. It's never a "look at me" attitude, but always a "look at God...and how blessed I am to be a part of it" attitude. I am so grateful that she does not hide her lamp under a bushel - for, I have learned a great deal from her about service, about love, about caring for others...about walking in good works. I have learned from her many important things about walking after the Lord that I wouldn't have learned if it weren't for her willingness to share.
If we are living for Christ, we are walking in good works. That is, our good works should be unmistakable - they should be quite evident in our lives.
For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
We should not feel the need to hide what God has created us to do - though we should never seek man's praise for what we do out of our love for the Lord. In fact, one of the greatest ways we can spur one another on to love and good works is through our example. I know I am very grateful for the willing examples who have let me watch and learn!