Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 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. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.Matthew 6:1-4
One of the current trends of social media that really sticks in my craw is the need to announce and dramatize acts of service and “good deeds”. While I am not against the performing of good deeds, because that is what God has called us to do, I find it disturbing because it takes these acts that are purposed for the glory of God and shines the light upon ourselves, thus negating the very power that such deeds are designed to bring forth.
Now I have heard the arguments that these videos are intended to inspire others to perform good deeds. While I understand that intent, the nature of social media is such that the message is often lost spotlight. Viewers start glorifying the one doing the act rather than God Himself. Any person in the world can actually perform good deeds and serve others. But it becomes a question of to what end and for whose glory do these acts exemplify?
Do you perform acts of service in order to ease your own conscience? Do you genuinely serve others in an effort to provide for their needs and point them to the Father as the provider of their need? Do we “sound the trumpet” of our entrance into the sphere of service, or do we quietly serve our fellow man not seeking recognition or praise for ourselves? Does your church make a big deal announcing to the world what service you have done in an effort to draw attention to potential donors and new visitors?
Jesus Himself strongly warned against making such proclamations because it was common practice among the religious leaders of the day to make shallow displays of charity in an effort to gain the approval of men when their hearts were not tuned to the glory of the Father. In fact, He highly discouraged this braggadocios practice due to the fact that it greatly diminishes the impact of these deeds. If you are reporting what you are doing for the Kingdom for the sake of the attention of others, then you will be rewarded with that attention. It’s quite another thing to report on what God is doing in His Kingdom for the sake of drawing attention to Him.
How can you tell the difference between such reporting? It’s really quite simple. Does the focus of your message tend to be more on you, your acts, what you did, or what it cost you? Or does the focus of your message highlight what it cost God to reconcile Himself to us, what He did to provide for others, and what His purposes for His kingdom are? Does the spotlight shine on you or on Him? Do you spend more time talking about yourself than talking about Jesus?
Dr. Henry Blackaby, in his masterful study entitled “Experiencing God”, once made this observation: “Do not ask God to bless your work. Rather, find out where He is working and join Him there, for it is already blessed.” God will never call you to do your thing, but rather He calls us to join Him in His Kingdom work. Our plans and our programs and initiatives are always going to be tainted by our own perspectives, weaknesses, and ambitions. God’s work is always designed for our growth and the advancement of His Kingdom.
More than once, the apostle Paul encouraged the church in their service, but in every case the focus was on what God was doing with His bride, not what the church was doing for Him:
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident in this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”Philippians 1:3-6 (emphasis mine)
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”Ephesians 2:10 (emphasis mine)
Keep your eyes on the King and His work. Shine the spotlight on the only one deserving of all praise and glory. He is the only one worthy. Our acts of righteousness are filth when compared to the surpassing greatness of His grace. And His light shines so bright that it will eventually expose us for the filth that we are, in comparison. But it is His grace that makes us clean and whole and only His grace that is worth shining a light upon.