February 9

Text: Matthew 6:1

"Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” (NASB)

Why does a person wish to be a righteous person?  That seems to be a simple, straightforward question. It is!  However, like many simple questions, the answer is quite complex.  For example, if one’s response is, “Because everyone should be righteous,” that does not answer the question.  There are many—likely the majority—with no desire to be righteous.  To those people the question is irrelevant to physical existence, and any answer is foolish.  If one answered, “To avoid going to hell,” that is an extremely poor response.  It will prove to be an inadequate answer as one’s life grows more complex.  If the answer is, “In order to be religious,” that is hardly an improvement.  Unfortunately, a person can be religious without being dedicated to being righteous.

Then, why does a person wish to be a righteous?  The answer is simple but complex in its simplicity.  A person wants to be righteous because the person loves God.  That involves more than loving the church, more than loving people who go to church, or more than loving a doctrinal system.  The person loves God’s character and values it so much that he/she wants to incorporate those characteristics and values into his/her life.  The person does not live in terror of “what God will do to me” but in appreciation of “what God has done for me in Jesus.”  It is a complex answer because it is a maturing answer—an understanding of spirituality and a grasp of the meaning of belief is always maturing.

First century Jews thought in terms of rewarded behavior.   Jesus stressed that with God motives matter.  If the motive for doing a righteous act was to gain human attention, when human attention was gained, the person received what he/she sought.  That person should expect nothing from God—he/she got what was wanted.  If God was not the primary motive for the “doing,” God will not be the source of the reward—the person got what was wanted, and what was wanted was not centered in God.

Suggestion for reflection: Why are you who you are and do what you do?  (Read Galatians 5:16-24.)

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