There is tension in life. I am not talking about stress. Rather I am talking about 2 truths that seem to be at odds, and yet are complimentary. I want to compare two verses out of the Sermon on the Mount. I have reached Matt 6 in my crawl through the Sermon and it opens with this instruction:
Beware of practicing your righteousness (alms KJV) before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. (Matt 6:1 NASB)
However as I ponder this, I remember a few weeks ago working through this wonderful gem in Chapter 5.
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matt 5:16 NASB)
In 5:16 we are told to shine a light on our good works so men may see the works, yet in 6:1 we are told do not do your righteousness or alms to be noticed by men.
In the past I have always read this in the KJV where the word is translated alms which acts as a lead in to the following verses, but as I study through in the NASB uses the more general term righteousness. [The reason for the difference goes back to which Greek text each is translated from not just English word choice – but that is not my battle and I am not taking sides. If you are an enquiring mind and must know more I copied a little blurb from blueletterbible.org below[i] for your reading pleasure – if you want more than that – Google it.]
In any case, the obvious difference is who gets the glory, right? In one case you shine the light of your integrity and godly character which stems from your intimacy with your Father on the good works you do with Him and He gets the glory. In the other, your entire motivation for doing the good works is to be seen of men.
I knew a man once who gave a $1,000,000 gift to a charity. WOW – good day for the charity. He called a press conference to do it! Good day for him too since that publicity (and a fefty tax break) was the reward he would get out of that deal. It defiantly impressed some folks, and in God’s record books, no further action was necessary.
Paul has something to say about righteousness which opens our eyes a bit wider on this whole issue.
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, (Phil 3:7-9 NASB)
When we stir up good works to impress men, it is ours and it is based in law. Consider why you slow down when a police car pops up on the side of the road. (oh yes you do!) Clearly your “good works” or keeping of the law is only for him to see, because when he was not looking you were cooking!
Not so with the life we live in the Spirit of God. What we do when partnered with Him – the stuff that we say yes to the nudging of the Spirit – those are His righteous acts, and draw men to Him and create glory for Him.
Does this help at all? I hope so.
We must hear that voice of the Spirit. Shhhhhh – listen – there it is! What is He saying to you. [Tweet This] You don’t have to tell me – just get out there and live with your heart's hearing aids on and walk in His righteousness by faith today.
For more on Light and Matt 5:16 check my post “Are You Going to Shine or Just Cut Bait”
[i] The Greek NT Texts: GNT Morph
The vast majority of modern translations are based upon the Greek text in this lower scroll (i.e. the "Alexandrian" text type). The Blue Letter Bible here provides this Greek text with an important note: the King James Version (KJV) is not based upon this Greek text. The KJV is based upon the "Textus Receptus" above. The Alexandrian-based text shown here on the Blue Letter Bible combines the Westcott-Hort (1881) edition with the Nestle-Aland 26th edition (and its variants).
The Blue Letter Bible has intentionally abstained from making a statement of belief as to the priority of the Textus Receptus over the Wescott-Hort text, or vice versa. While many good scholarly debates exist, others have quickly become divisive in the Church. We leave this decision to each individual; for such an issue can only be solved through much prayer and diligent inquiry.