“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”Matthew 6:1

Today’s verse is one of those verses that hits deep. Whoever wants to read a warm, fuzzy devotional thought or get off easy today—this is not it. This is one of those lessons I learned in BSF that took me weeks to share with others. In Matthew 6:1-18, the word reward is mentioned seven times. That’s a lot. Normally, when you think back on this chapter—you think of the warm fuzzies found in verses 5-15 and 25-34 where Jesus teaches us how to pray and then how not to worry.

So, what about the first part of the chapter? Jesus is addressing a common cultural trend. The Pharisees were known to be givers. They gave to the needy. They even tithed a tenth of all their spices (Matthew 23:23). What were they missing? Jesus knew their motives. The Pharisees thought they had to do things a certain way to obtain God’s blessing. Everything they did—and I mean everything—was done publicly. Giving. Praying. Fasting. These three things are great, but it’s the how and why that matter most to God. He knows whether we give cheerfully—or because we have to.

Be careful. That’s all Jesus was saying. At least that’s how I used to read the passage. I glossed over the past that says “if you do everything in public to be seen by others—you will have no reward.” Gulp. What? Who, me?

Maybe it’s because I didn’t have a full-time writing career until four years ago. I didn’t struggle with building my platform in a public way until recently. Yesterday I shared in Day #28 the reason why we don’t have to fear the lonely places. Spending time along with God is a gift. And, going a step further, today I want to encourage us with our reward. The more we focus on doing our acts of righteousness in public, the less our reward will be in heaven. Yikes. Maybe that doesn’t seem so bad, but the time spent on earth compared to the eternity in heaven—we should be terrified. It should rock us to our core and reveal our motives in a flash.

Do you share how amazing things are going in order to receive praise or to direct praise to God? This is a question only you can answer. Same with me.

The problem is we run around like hurt Christians hurting each other because all we can see is the plank’s in each other’s eye. The Pharisees were so careful to point out everyone else’s sin that they missed the mark entirely.

I love the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Luke 18:10-13 says, “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and tithe a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’”

Jesus said that the tax collector, not the Pharisee, went home justified before God. In other words, “all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).

Maybe you’ve worked really hard and feel you deserve a reward in this lifetime. Now! Maybe you need God to come through, and you really hoped all your good deeds would have saved you by now. Admit it. Don’t be shy.

I’ve thought both of those at various times in my life. Maybe you’ve never thought these things, or maybe you haven’t. But, maybe you know someone else needs to hear this! We all need to be reminded from time to time that our reward is an eternal reward and not to be careful to get caught up in laying up our treasures here on this earth! At least—I know I do! What about you?

Dear Dream Giver Jesus, Thank You for the reminder of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Help me not to focus on others sin but focus on my standing with you. Please have mercy on me! Thanks also for the reminder of where our rewards come from. Help me to be a good steward of everything you’ve given me on this earth until we meet in heaven. Amen.

How do you view rewards? Is it something you’re seeking on this earth, in heaven, or both?

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