Hovering over the opening section of Matthew 6 this morning. A warning about doing the right stuff for the wrong reasons “as the hypocrites do” — a warning about “practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them” (Matt. 6:1).
The hypocrites Jesus is talking about are those “in the synagogues” (6:2) who make a big deal of their acts of charity. The Pharisees who intentionally showcase their giving to the needy, their dedication to prayer, and their self-imposed hardship through fasting. They do these things, Jesus says, to be seen by others (6:5), their motive being the praise of others (6:2). And that, says Jesus, will be their reward — the accolades of men. So what?, He implies, when there is a greater, more lasting, eternally significant reward — to be seen by “the Father who sees in secret” and to receive His reward.
And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
(Matthew 6:4b, 6b, 18b ESV)
If the sins of the Pharisees are an “either/or” proposition, then perhaps it’s easy to distance ourselves from people like them. If we’re not doing what they did for the reasons they did it, then we must be okay. But what if it’s less about an “either/or” and it’s more like a continuum? That while our heart may not be exactly like their heart, our actions can still reflect a heart that needs to be checked.
Honestly, who doesn’t want to be seen by someone? Who doesn’t want someone to know they’ve done good? Not that they desire a stage, not that they seek the applause of a crowd, they’re not looking for a following — they just want someone to notice. They want someone who’s connected closely enough, and deeply enough, that even the things that are “done in secret” can be shared. They just want to know they’re seen.
Most, I’d venture to say, either know, or have known, that kind of relationship. Familiar with the dynamics of a close enough relationship where there’s someone who sees them. A marriage relationship, a family relationship, a close friend relationship, or even an accountability relationship — an intimate relationship where you are known and where you are seen.
But what if that relationship doesn’t exist? What if it’s not what it once was? What if the only one who sees is, in fact, “your Father who sees in secret?” Would it be enough to satisfy that longing to be seen, that desire to be known? If not, though not like the Pharisee who is driven to be seen by adoring crowds, in a sense aren’t we also in danger of doing our good works to be seen by others, even if that other is only one other, a very close other?
Hmmm . . . maybe this opening section of Matthew 6 is more targeted to me than I’d like to think.
To be satisfied in secret. To give to the needy without the left hand knowing what the right is doing. To pray in my closet with no one else the wiser. To fast without ever mentioning it. Knowing and believing that I’m still seen. That Someone still knows.
As if to punctuate these thoughts stimulated by Matthew 6, I then encountered the following in my reading in the Psalms:
The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.
(Psalm 14:2 ESV)
Oh, that the Father’s knowledge of who we are and what we do would be enough. That we really would be satisfied by an Audience of One.
Not that we shouldn’t have someone “on the inside” who celebrates our triumphs, rebukes our wrongdoings, and encourages us to keep on keepin’ on. After all, the Creator who created man put this “warning label” on the package, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18).
But, should we find ourselves in an “it is not good” circumstance and we are alone, knowing that the Father sees will be sufficient. Knowing that Jesus is present will satisfy. Abiding through His Spirit, will be enough. Mindful that our recognition rewards are coming from the Father who sees in secret. Able to hear that still small voice whispering in our ear, “I see you.”
By His grace. For His glory.