There is an old saying that amazing things can get done if you don’t care who gets the credit. There are some people who make sure that they are in every camera shot around, making sure that their name is associated with every success in a movement. Then there are people who do the work. The Civil Rights Movement as a whole was about doing the work. Some great leaders arose and were recognized. One great leader, recognized by very few, was Dorothy Height. Height worked actively to bring about understanding between black women and white women. She counseled American leaders. She focused on the need to include African-American women in society. She didn’t seek the limelight, she sought results. Her influence made her one of the most important figures in the Civil Rights Movement, even though most people have never heard of her.
We all want credit for those things we do, and to be honest, sometimes it hurts when we aren’t recognized for our contributions. We clap for other people who receive recognition in our chosen field, but underneath, there may be an undercurrent of resentment. “I should have gotten that recognition,” might be one of the thoughts. Sometimes I am tempted by the old saying that “he who toots his own horn, gets it tooted.” As the resentment builds and the desire for recognition grows, the words of Jesus cut through the fog of self-aggrandizement. “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)
As Jesus continued His Sermon on the Mount, He looked at this issue of humility. There are some people who want credit for everything. Jesus pointed out the absurdity of this attitude in three different areas: giving alms, praying, and fasting. One of the religious practices of the Jews was giving alms to people who couldn’t work. Most people who gave just dropped a coin in a box in front of the person. Some, however would make a big show of their giving, making sure that everyone around saw that they were giving and getting credit for being generous. When some people prayed, they made sure that others knew that they were praying and wanted all eyes on them – because they were religious leaders and should be listened to. Fasting was another practice. Some of these gluttons for attention wanted everyone to know that they were fasting and disfigured their faces to draw attention to themselves. Jesus put it simply: they wanted people to notice and they got their reward. They received no benefit from God for their actions.
Righteous acts, whether they be religious acts like Jesus used as examples here or other acts designed to help people in a godly way, may draw the attention of others, but they should never be done for that attention. They should all be done to honor God. The point Jesus was making in His sermon was that you can seek the honor of men or the heart of God. If you seek the honor of men, you will get it. That honor is temporary. If you seek the heart of God and are obedient to Him, you will discover that the rewards you get are permanent as your heart and attitude are changed forever. You will see much more happen to advance the Kingdom of God as long as you don’t worry about getting applause from people for all you do.
Lord, remind me that I am called to be Your servant. Let all that I do be done to advance Your kingdom. Let me be satisfied in my service as I see lives changed and people drawn to You.