2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
Why do we do the right thing? Why do we support organizations that seek to help others? Do we check to see if anyone is watching before we help someone in trouble? Jesus is telling us that what is in our hearts matters. Are we looking to please God, or to get credit for whatever it is that we are doing?
People are rewarded many times for the good they have done and that’s not what Jesus is speaking about. No, he’s talking about our motivation. Reward and punishment are a basic motivation for behavior. How do we try to get our children to behave? Do the right thing and you’ll get a reward – maybe a cookie or another special treat. Misbehave, and I’ll punish you – maybe take away a favorite toy, or give a time-out. As we grow into adulthood, our motivation should grow and develop along with us.
According to some psychological theories, there are levels of moral behavior:
1. Most people, they say, stop at the level of law and order which means that they are governed by rules.
2. For many people, this will be the laws of their communities or the Ten Commandments.
3. And for some of them, this will be a very literal interpretation of the rule.
4. The highest level is based on universally held principles.
For the Christian, these principles are right in line with Jesus’ law of love. We don’t tell the truth because we might be caught in a lie, but because it’s the right thing to do. We don’t steal because we all have a right to our own property. We don’t just not kill, we avoid doing anything that would cause harm to another. And we support justice and act with compassion because it’s what Jesus would do.
Our God who sees all and knows our hearts will reward us for our righteousness and that should be enough for us.
Loving God, we ask you to keep our hearts pure and centered on you and your command to love others whether anyone is watching or not. Amen.