Have you ever noticed while driving just how quickly your mind recalls all the proper driving techniques when you see a police car nearby? For example, do your hands instinctively go to the 10 and 2 o’clock positions on the steering wheel? Do you out of the blue start to use the turn signal, not as a sign for other drivers to yield to you the right of way but to signal your intent to turn or change lanes? Perhaps you carefully slow your speed to 5 miles or kilometers per hour below the posted speed limit, hoping that the officer will pass you and be on his way.
Most drivers react that way because they know the officer can hold them accountable for violating the law. Most people who know they are doing wrong will change their driving behavior as long as police are present. Such people are not genuinely concerned about being good drivers; instead, they only want it to appear that way. It begs the question, why is it that people are so careful to observe man’s laws when police are around and yet so careless to follow God’s law when He is present all the time?
Some people take that same approach to Christianity, whereby they go through all the motions and say all the rights things around others but are absent of a relationship with Jesus Christ themselves. Like the driver who seeks the officer’s approval, some churchgoers only seek man’s approval. In other words, they want to play church, and, more often than not, it is for some form of worldly gain, not spiritual growth. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus gives a warning to those who practice being righteous before men and uses the examples of giving, prayer, and fasting to illustrate His point.
In the time when Jesus walked the earth, giving to the poor was a common occurrence in synagogues and on streets. Some people would ensure their coins made a loud noise when being dropped in the offering. Today, some practice that same technique by placing their check face-up, so others can see how much they are giving. Such people do this only to gain attention and garner prominence among people.
It was not uncommon for a Pharisee in those days to suddenly begin praying aloud in the street. He would do this not to draw others’ to God, but himself so people would view him as a righteous man, a man who is close to and has found favor with God. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth because the Pharisee’s mindset, one all too common in modern-day, was, “It’s all about me!”
When fasting, Pharisees would allow their grooming and personal hygiene standards to diminish well below par. They would wear old clothing that was dirty and tattered as well as refrain from bathing. They would also cover themselves with ash and take on the appearance of suffering so others would assume they were fasting for the Lord. However, it was nothing more than a ruse and stage performance to get attention and reverence.
These types of behaviors still lurk in the church today in one form or another. For example, some people go to great lengths to brag about all their work for the Lord. Some see themselves as being so righteous they treat everyone else as inferior or beneath their level. You see, such people, as Scripture points out, honor the Lord with their lips and actions, but their hearts are far from the Lord (Ref. Isaiah 29:13). For those who eagerly seek the approval of men, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full” (Matt. 6:2-16).
Such people who only seek others’ approval miss out on bountiful blessings that God had in store for them. The rewards they receive are only temporal and will fall to decay in a hear today gone tomorrow blink of an eye. The blessings of God given to us in heaven, however, are made perfect and are everlasting. That is why Jesus taught His disciples to give, pray, and fast in secret because our heavenly Father, who sees what we do in secret, will reward us openly in ways that go beyond the borders of our imagination. Jesus further said:
Our greatest treasure in heaven is the presence of God. Second to that is standing alongside other souls who were our neighbors, friends, and family here on earth. However, some, perhaps many, have yet to hear the gospel and be introduced to Jesus Christ. Maybe they are waiting for someone to reach out to them because behind their hardened exterior lies a broken interior that only the Holy Spirit’s healing power can mend. What if they are waiting for you to share the gospel with them, and what if tomorrow will be too late?
Therefore, in the days ahead, be encouraged to drive carefully, give yourself a spiritual examination to see where your heart is according to where your treasures are stored, and set out to share the gospel with your family, friends, and anyone who has an ear and is willing to hear. Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15).
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