We live in a “watch me” world, don’t we?
I mean, really… that Whip, Nae Nae song? It has a whole section where the words “watch me, watch me” are sung over and over and over.
Particularly with the rise of social media, we want the world to know what we’re doing. Is that always bad? No, not always, but I do think it makes it significantly more difficult to “do good” well.
Matthew 6:1-4 says this:
“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.”
There are times when it is good for the world to know what we’re doing. I think the world can be inspired by what we do. All throughout Scripture the People of God embody their Creator to the nations of around them, to their neighbors who are watching. The world knows who God is by watching the People of God and what they do differently.
And I truly think there is a place for this on social media. Social media is a new vehicle for Christian witness.
But the trick is the motivation. As we all know, there’s a fine line between wanting to share something that we think our friends will want to see, and wanting to share something because we want our friends to see it.
I’m as guilty of this as anyone! When you have a three-year-old daughter who is constantly doing cute things, it’s really difficult to not share photos from the wrong motivation. It’s easy to think, “I don’t care if people want to see this or not. I want them to see it, so I’m going show it off!”
We get so caught up with this need to share everything we do that sometimes when we’re doing something amazing all we can think is, “How can I take a photo of this to share with the world?”
Or if you’ve ever missed an opportunity to share something great you say, “Oh man, I can’t believe I forgot to take a picture to share on Facebook!”
But when was the last time you experienced something amazing or did something good, anonymously?
When was the last time you helped someone, or volunteered with a local nonprofit organization, or made a donation, or collected clothes around your neighborhood to give to the homeless, or treated someone to a meal, or took an underprivileged friend to a baseball game, or whatever it is…
…and you didn’t tell anyone about it?
In this Matthew passage, Jesus isn’t saying that everything we do needs to be done in complete secret, but he is saying that our motivation needs to be pure—so pure, that it doesn’t matter to us if anyone knows about what we’re doing or not.
That’s a great test, really. The next time you “do good” ask yourself, “Do I care who knows about this? Will I be content when I’m finished with this and no one finds out?”
If you’re able to genuinely answer “yes” to that, then you know your motivation is in the right place. You know that what you’re doing is for the glory of God and not for your own attention.
Then if people do find out what you did, it’s not bad! Again, it might inspire them to do good as well, but at least you can know that you started from the right spot: from a pure heart that was not motivated to bring attention to yourself, but to the One who is the source of all good in the first place.