To Be Seen

March 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

In Matthew 6:1-18, Jesus speaks about three of the most important religious practices in the Jewish religion of his day: giving alms (contributions to those in need), prayer, and fasting.  In each case, Jesus begins his comments with “when you…” (6:2, 5, 16) to introduce his instructions on what not to do and what to do with regard to these practices. All three cases are illustrations of Jesus’ warning in 6:1, namely “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them…” Therefore, in each of these cases it is not the practice itself that is problematic for Jesus, but rather the intention of the one who gives alms, or pray, or fast to be seen by others.  David Lose writes about this desire:  “So what’s so important about being seen? Well, to be seen is not simply to be noticed, but to matter, to count, to have one’s sense of self validated in the eyes of another. The temptation Jesus urges us to avoid might thereby be understood as the urge to allow others to determine our worth and validity. When we fall prey to such a temptation, our reward indeed is to be noticed and affirmed by those around us. But it is a fickle reward and leaves us dependent on the whim and will of others.” The promise here is that God sees us.  Lose again:  “…nowhere in the text does it say that it is wrong to want to be seen, to matter, to be noticed and counted as worthy. Rather, Jesus urges us to place our trust and confidence in God, the one who is not impressed by outward shows of piety but sees, weighs, and notices even the secret places of the heart.”

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