When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. (Matthew 6:5)
If you’re doing something just to get noticed, it has no value for God. Now, it’s easy to jump up and say, “Well, I don’t pray for others to see me. In fact, I’m really uncomfortable praying in front of people at all. I don’t step up and seek attention in any way. I’d rather fade into the background. I just don’t really want anyone looking at me.”
It’s possible you’re telling the truth if that’s something you would claim, but let’s dig a little deeper. We can be just as proud and hypocritical about our (false) humility than those who stand up and get noticed. Boasting in our humility isn’t humility. And hiding from all possibilities can stunt our growth, not to mention rob God of opportunities to work through us. Let’s not twist this verse into something it’s not.
Yet we need to be convicted in the truth of it. This instruction is difficult to reconcile with the world’s advice, which tells us we need to speak up on our behalf. We need to self-promote and get the word out about what we can provide for others. Case in point: Christian ministry. How many “experts” recommend bloggers use their own names for their web addresses for name recognition? There’s advice for just about anything you want: when to post and tweet, which social networks are essential for building “relationships,” what colors to use, how to code key words, and the list goes on and on. The current term is “building your platform.”
What about building God’s platform? (After all, He has a pretty well established platform already, and since He has an “in” on who to reach when, He takes the place of every expert, consultant, and marketing executive you need. Or, He’ll lead you to those people in His timing.) And that brings up another side of the argument: if we’re in ministry to glorify God, we can only have impact for Him if we put forth effort and build the ministry. We say we’re not doing it for ourselves; we’re doing it for Him. I’m not saying that’s not a possibility, but I think we rationalize what we’re doing a lot more often than is actually true.
Perhaps you’re not involved in a personal ministry. Consider other things that call attention to yourself: the way you dress, the car you drive, where you live, where you shop, the gifts and donations you give, the awards you win, the letters behind your name, the relationships you have. Maybe your intent is not to call attention to yourself, but if that’s the end result, you may need to put yourself in check.
What happens when someone recognizes you for something you’ve done—how you lead a group, teach a lesson, serve people in need, write a blog, design graphics, paint pictures? Who gets the attention? It’s certainly not always a smooth transition to verbally glorify God with every accolade that comes your way, but our first thought needs to always be how we can point to God.
First, we need to ask for God’s guidance about whether or not we’re supposed to be on the stage in the first place. Don’t assume you know. And just because He guides you on or off it once doesn’t mean the next time will yield the same direction. After following His guidance along the way, you’ll need to be obedient once again as you honor God not only through the process but through any recognition you receive. The intent of the hypocrites was to be seen. That’s not always your intent. God knows, and He will work in your life every step of the way.
But you have to yield to Him…every step of the way.
Dear God, convict me of the times I do anything in front of others for personal attention. I want to glorify You in everything I do, so guide me in my humility. Give me the boldness to step up for You but to step back for myself.