Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:1-4
In today’s passage we are challenged to consider our motives for doing what is right. Jesus first tells that if we do good things simply to gain the approval or admiration of others, then we lose our reward and honor from God. And this is because those who seek honor for themselves under the pretense of giving glory to God will be exposed as hypocrites (phony, and/or lacking a true heart).
After this introduction Jesus then goes on to deal with our actions in three specific areas: giving (vv. 2-4), prayer (vv. 5-8) and fasting (going without food for a limited time greater attention to spiritual matters, vv. 16-18). Jesus’ harsh criticism of untrue or insincere behavior challenges many contemporary Christian efforts and motives, including competing for recognition, boasting of one’s own success, performing and entertaining in the name of worship and the driving desire to be first. Which is why Jesus tells us to give in secret, pray in secret and fast in secret. All three of these things are to be done to glory to God and when we do them publicly for everyone to see, then they are no longer done for the glory of God but are instead done for our glory. We must be careful that we are doing the right things for the right reasons.