Today’s Reading: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:1
I recently visited a theater with two very different employees. Based on her behavior, one employee relished the public eye. The other employee would rather endure water-boarding than him having to speak in public. Outwardly these people seemed very different, but they were actually driven by the same belief: “What other people think about them matters!” He gloried in what he believed other people thought of him, while she dreaded it.
You may not be standing on a soap box telling everyone how good you are, but that doesn’t mean your “righteousness” isn’t being driven by the opinions of others. When we say nothing because we’re afraid of being noticed, when we go along with the crowd because we’re afraid of standing out, our “righteousness” is being driven by others. Hypocrites come in all personality types: the loud and boastful, but also the shy and meek.
Hypocrisy is driven by the pursuit of a righteousness that cannot be attained. Sinful human beings, with their ever changing and dishonest opinions, are never fully satisfied. You please someone one day, but the next they have changed their minds. You think you made someone happy, only to discover that this same person is saying terrible things about you behind your back. You do a loving deed for someone, but they become angry having imagined some evil motive for your actions.
The only righteousness that brings peace to the human heart is the righteousness that comes as a gift. It is not a righteousness rooted in what we do, but rooted in the payment Christ made on the cross for our sins. It is not a righteousness rooted in pleasing man with his ever changing opinions and ideas, but in pleasing our changeless and merciful God.
Prayer: Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness My beauty are, my glorious dress; Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed, With joy shall I lift up my head. (Jesus Thy Blood and Righteousness, LSB 563:1).
This devotion was written by Rev. Daniel Krueger, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Hiawatha, IA.