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Monday, April 25, 2016
Today’s Reading | Matthew 6:1–6, 16–18
“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (NRSV)
“Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”
I remember hearing that phrase for the first time in church and taking the word of God literally, as a young child often does. I stared at my chubby fists and wrinkled my nose. How was I supposed to worship God in this way? Do I tie my hand behind my back when I pray? I didn’t know how to do God’s work without letting myself—let alone other people—know about it.
In many ways, I am still like my younger self. I often find myself seeking acknowledgement or praise for doing good or making sacrifices, for doing volunteer work on a Saturday morning instead of sleeping late, for donating my old clothes instead of throwing them away. But I need to remind myself that, in exerting my efforts in this way, I am creating self-righteousness rather than receiving righteousness through God. God’s grace and forgiveness is quiet; it is unassuming; it is eternal—and we must accept God’s reward of unconditional love in the same way.
So let’s put away our trumpets. Resist the urge to blurt out our righteous accomplishments. Tie our right hands behind our backs. (OK, maybe not that last thing.) May we have the strength to quietly do that which allows us to fulfill our role as humble servants of God.
God, fill our hearts with an unending supply of quiet grace and mercy so that we may serve you and do your work. Amen.
Written by Katie MacKendrick, Editorial Assistant
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