“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).
Followers of Christ are forbidden from blasting our horns – doing our good works to be seen of men (Matthew 6:1).
Yet, Jesus also encouraged his disciples to illuminate the world, “that they may see your good works” (Matthew 5:16). Is this a contradiction?
Apparent contradictions are just that, apparent. Further thought and study reveals that there is no contradiction here.
In one breath, Jesus enjoins our participation in the world. Jesus himself attended festivals and weddings, attended synagogue, met with people in their homes and in town.
We are not to live as ascetics. Our participation in the world is visible. We embrace such and seek to enhance the experience of our fellow-man by bearing Christ everywhere we go. Our co-workers, our family, our neighbors, our friends, see Christ living in us. They often develop their impression of Christ – like it or not, justified or not – from us.
We must resist the urge to only turn inward to the comfort of like-minded saints. One day, such comforts will be ours. Until then, we are in the world and must bring Christ to it. As long as we are in the world, we are his light-bearers (Matthew 5:16). Being like him will be plenty noticeable.
Yet, in another breath, Jesus warns that such participation in the world must not be for its own sake. If doing any good – contributing to charity, visiting the sick, providing spontaneous gifts or acts of kindness – becomes an end in itself, a source of self-promotion and validation, we forfeit our Father’s reward.
Saints do not self-promote, either in person or on social media. They do not even own a horn, much less toot it. Such trumpeting is not only awkward but self-righteous. Self-righteousness and self-promotion do not draw men’s eyes upward to the Father, who will glorify and reward us in his good time (Matthew 5:16).