Media Motives Matter

In this social media age, the Christian would do well to remember Christ's warning, "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you have no reward from your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 6:1).

"Sound no trumpet," Jesus says, when you give (Matthew 6:2). It is quite an illustration Jesus offers. Here is a person who gives, but before they do so they blow a horn. That will gather some attention! They desire to be seen. They want to be thought well of. They long to be honored.

We don't sound trumpets (that seems a little over the top) but we have other means in our day of being recognized--especially on social media. Many master what has been called the humble brag: "I am so thankful for so and so's thankfulness for me." We are so humbled that we retweet their thankfulness! Virtue-signaling may be the greatest temptation. Of this we have we have made an art-form. It seems the louder and more recognizable, the better. Beware, Jesus warns us, be careful that you aren't doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

Motives matter. Jesus warns that doing the right thing for the wrong reason is what marks the life of the hypocrite (o how that stings!). It is the hypocrite, Jesus says, who does righteous deeds to be praised by others (Matthew 6:2). Jesus is concerned with a false righteousness that is no righteousness at all. The motive proves wrong. "Give me applause. Honor me. Celebrate me." We all know that pull, because we all feel it at times and given into it at other times. The desire for the praise of others dominates like few other desires.

Here there is great danger. Here is a trap many fall into and never recover from. The praise of men, like a black hole, pull one deeper and deeper into it. Its gravitational pull is hard to break. And it has no bottom and it provides no light. Let us run from it with every fiber of our being.

Notice, that the hypocrite possesses a religious life. He/she looks alive but there is in fact no life there. Like a corpse prepared for a funeral visitation--everything is in its place. The face has been painted, the skin reflects color, the outward appearance looks living, but there is no life within. Many live such a life on social media before a watching world. We know it is watching and we live for its applause.

Let us not live for the praise of others. Others celebrating us is no sign that God celebrates us as well. Motivation matters. God cares not about the quantity of our service if it is not quality service. And doing good deeds for the praise of others, even on social media, fails to pass the quality standards of God. It proves to be false righteousness. A person living in this way is but a shell of a Christian and the acts they are doing are but a shell of Christian acts. It is all hollow on the inside.

Let it instruct us that Satan doesn't hate or work against the person who makes a show of godliness; he opposes those who are truly godly. What Satan hates, we are to love. What he loves, we are to hate. He had no problem with Balaam as a prophet or Judas as a disciple. In fact, he welcomed their professions. And he welcomed their deeds. But God did not.

Practicing righteousness before others in order is self-serving and is in fact an unrighteousness. And for this Jesus says we will receive no reward from God (Matthew 6:1).

Yet, Jesus says there is a reward. "Truly, I say to you they have received their reward" (Matthew 6:2). Those making a show of righteousness are paid in full. They received a receipt written in bold letters--paid! They should expect and will get nothing more, for they have already been paid in full. With what? Jesus answers, "The praise of men." And what a poor payment that is--a payment fleeting and vapid. And how much was lost!

What God thinks of us not only matters more than what men think of us; it is the only thing that matters. Labor for the rewards above. Set your mind on things above. What this world offers proves too fleeting and what we lose is too great. Let us not practice our righteousness before men for the approval of men, even on social media.