1 “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.
2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
5″And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
It’s funny how sometimes we read something that Jesus said and then we turn it into a rule or a law, even though rules and laws were way outside of His character. It’s not that Jesus was contradicting Himself, either. He was teaching. Sometimes a teacher will tell the kids to speak softly, like when they are in a library. Other times the teacher tells them to speak loudly, like when they are in speech class.
It’s about context, not contradiction.
So here Jesus says to pray in secret and to let your giving be in secret. That doesn’t mean that you should never pray in a place where someone might see you. It means the point isn’t the showmanship. The point is that you’re talking to God. The reward you seek is God Himself, not the fact that other people saw you do it.
We want people to praise the Lord for the fact that we pray, not to praise us. We want people that are needy to thank God for the money they received, not gushing over the people that gave the money in the first place.
So don’t be paralyzed with fear about praying in public. If it’s to show off, then be scared. If it’s because you’re moved by a situation or nature or even a conversation…feel free to pray wherever you are. If you feel the Holy Spirit compelling you to walk across the street when everyone is watching and to give that guy $10, then do it. Don’t do it so everyone sees you, but do it because the Lord has heard that needy guy crying out for help.
Our Father, who sees in secret, knows the intention of your heart even better than you do. He’s happy to watch you risk obedience to the Holy Spirit so that He can show you what it feels like to seek the glory of God rather than the glory of men.
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