As I was studying the Bible, an apparent problem surfaced. Because I do not believe the Bible contradicts itself, I was driven to prayer and thinking.
In Matthew 5:16, Jesus tells us to let our light shine before men in such a way that people will see our good deeds and glorify God. This is a clear command to do acts of righteousness in public. People will not be able to see our good deeds and glorify God if we do them all in secret.
Then, just one chapter later, I read Matthew 6:1. It says, “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 (ESV).” This is a clear warning against doing good acts in order to be seen by people. If we do righteous things in order to be seen by people, then we lose any reward from God.
Here is the summary of the problem I was seeing: I should do good deeds that other people see (Mat. 5:16), but I should not do them in order to be seen (Mat. 6:1). In other words, it is ok to be seen doing good deeds, but it is not ok to want to be seen doing good deeds.
Motives matter to God! The inner purpose for which we do things really matters to God. Is your motive in doing good deeds to glorify God and have others see His glory (Mat. 5:16)? This is praised by Jesus. Or, is your motive to be seen by men in order to get people to think well of you (Mat. 6:1)? This is condemned by Jesus.
How can we be more consistent in having pure motives in this life? Here are some helpful suggestions:
First, we must confess our impure motives and repent of our failure to please God in everything we do.
Second, we must treasure our Savior who lived with totally pure motives and died for our impure motives.
Third, we must consistently examine ourselves. These questions should be continually asked about everything we do: Why am I doing this? Is this the best way to spend this amount of time or this amount of money? Who do I really want to please by doing this or saying this?
Fourth, we must saturate ourselves in the Bible. We will deceive ourselves, but God’s Word will reveal our impure motives.
Friends, let us live for a single purpose: to make much of Jesus Christ. Motives matter to God!