Should a person do good works that people can see, or not? One might get conflicting ideas regarding the answer to that question from a couple of scriptures in Matthew chapters 5 & 6:
— “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.” (Matthew 5:16)
— “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them, otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1)
Is Jesus contradicting Himself in these passages? Far from it! As usual, He gets to the center of the issue with us, which is our heart. Should your works be seen by men? It all depends upon your heart motivation.
Matthew 5:16 says that we are to let our light shine before men in such a way that they see our good works and glorify our Father. God is the one glorified in Matthew 5:16. But in Matthew 6:1, the deed is done “to be be noticed by them.” And significantly, Jesus adds in :2, “so that they may be honored by men.” So the difference is not the PRACTICE: doing good deeds which are seen, but rather in the HEART MOTIVATION. Are you doing what you do to glorify God, or to gain the attention and approval of men?
There is a careful balance involved here. One the one hand, it is good for people to see the good works you do in Jesus’ name — it reflects well upon the gospel and is a good witness for the Lord. But on the other hand, there is always the danger of doing what you do for the approval of people instead of God.
How can we know if we are off target here? One way is if we continue doing our good deeds whether anyone notices or not, and we don’t get upset about the lack of attention– because that is not why were doing them anyway!
But it is difficult territory, searching our hearts’ most basic motivation: Why do we do what we do? This is important; it is no small thing. If we do things with the right motive, then God is glorified. If we don’t, then we have NO reward in heaven (6:1) and are in company with the Pharisees who are sons of hell.
Thus we need to make this a matter of serious prayer and soul-searching. It is not just WHAT you do that is important, but WHY you do it. Most likely, in your heart of hearts, you know the answer. And God does for sure!