To Be Seen of Men

Sam Petitfils

“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.”  Matthew 6:1

Jean Frederick Oberlin, a minister in 18th century Germany, was traveling by foot in winter when he was caught in a severe snowstorm.  He soon lost his way in the blowing snow and feared he would freeze to death.  In despair, he sat down not knowing which way to turn.  Just then, a man came along in a wagon and rescued Oberlin.  He took him to the next village and made sure he would be cared for.  As the man prepared to journey on, Oberlin said, "Tell me your name so that I may at least have you in grateful remembrance before God."  The man, who by now had recognized Oberlin, replied, "You are a minister.  Please tell me the name of the Good Samaritan."  Oberlin said, "I cannot do that, for it is not given in the Scriptures."  His benefactor responded, "Until you can tell me his name, please permit me to withhold mine."

The desire for reward and recognition is not necessarily wrong, but we need to direct it to the right place.  That Jesus spoke openly and often about rewards and judgment tells us that we should labor for God and look forward to the gifts and rewards He will give us one day.  But many seek only the applause of men.

Jesus’ observation of the religious leaders of His day was, “they loved human praise more than praise from God” (John 12:43).  The Apostle Paul says similar words:

“No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.  Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.”

We all have felt the pain of getting blamed for something we did not do.  Similarly, sometimes we don’t get recognized for the good things we do.  But remember that “God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them” (Hebrews 6:10).

Maybe you labor long and hard in a ministry or other form of service and seldom get recognized.  Perhaps you care for someone at home who has special needs.  You’re tired and wonder how long you can continue.  Just remember this: God’s memory is unfailing and He will not forget those things you have done in His name.

When we only serve men, our efforts will end in disappointment.  But our love for God expressed in good deeds will be abundantly rewarded by God one day.  We close with this encouraging verse:

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10).

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