Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 97; 147:12-20, 1 Samuel 2:27-36, Acts 2:22-36, Luke 20:41-21:4
There are two kinds of people who tell you they don’t own a television. (OK, there are probably more but they don’t help further this illustration). The first mention it matter-of-factly because it is pertinent to the conversation. The second deliver the information kind of smugly, often unnecessarily, and their tone lets us know they feel a bit superior about it.
The scribes Jesus criticized fell into that second camp. Televisions weren’t an option, but their public prayers were overloud and overlong, their tasseled robes (a symbol of piety) hung longer than necessary, and they generally made sure the world knew they were that little bit extra. Jesus told them the recognition they sought in this life would be the only reward they received.
Our expression of faith should not be a performance. There’s no medal to be won in the piety olympics, and we don’t get a better table in heaven because we looked down our noses at non-believers. On the other hand, we shouldn’t make an idol of humility either. Everyone knows the martyr who just won’t die – the person who constantly abases him or herself unnecessarily and obviously. The one who misses dessert at every church social to personally wash the two hundred dirty dishes – even if they have to block the kitchen door to do it.
So if we are to live lives holy and apart, yet not be showy, what’s the balance?
Maybe it’s not spending any time at all worrying about whether or not people see what you do. Say grace in a restaurant, but keep it to the table. List volunteering at the homeless center on your resume, but don’t humblebrag it. Share stories about your church group’s mission trip, but tell them in a way that glorifies God, not your self-actualization. Work with disadvantaged youth, but don’t use them as props in selfies. Wash the dishes, but welcome the help.
Jesus praised the widow who quietly gave her last cent. When we serve as faithfully as she did, we stop focusing on our own pride or humility and start focusing on Christ.
Read more on today’s passage from Luke in Puzzling It Out.
Comfort: God knows your heart. That is enough.
Challenge: Think less about yourself.
Prayer: God, I humbly offer my hands and heart for the work you would have me do. Amen.
Discussion: Have you ever done something for the wrong reasons?
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