According to Jesus, it is what we do in secret that matters most. Jesus is not suggesting that the outward is unimportant – far from it. ‘What good is it, my children, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him.” (James 2:14)
The answer is empathetically no. Still, it is also possible to have outward works but no inner reality. In this instance, religion is a presence. Six times in the Sermon on the Mount alluding to these distinct exercises, Jesus employs the term secret::
- Give “in secret… and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:4)
- Pray “in secret.. and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
- Fast in secret … and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
The Sermon on the Mount is addressing the issue of authenticity. Just how genuine is our relationship with the Lord Jesus? It is altogether possible to practice an outward display of deity to piety – to “talk the talk” – without demonstrating any inner reality of godliness. This is true In every professing Christian, and it is especially true of those engaged in Christian ministry. Authentic Christianity requires an outward and discernible “work of faith.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3, 2 Thessalonians 1:11) But it also requires genuine godly affections and net discipline of the heart,
There is a manner of ministry that is more about self-sacrifice, self-indulgence than self-discipline, and self-promotion than self- denial. There is also giving that is designed for recognition – plaques on walks intend to be read by generations to come, or press releases informing the world of “generous donations” prayer in pristine Cranmnerlike language of the sixteenth center suggesting depths of personal piety; fasting that is shown vie open-nect T-shirts revealing a ribbed torso.
But all these outward demonstrations of piety met be no more than mere hypocrisy. The Greek word translated “hypocrites, refers to the masks worn by ancient actors as symbols of pretense and show. This, give with fanfare; pray with pride; fast with notice. This ministry is inauthentic. It is a sham.
The inauthentic ministry was a charge leveled against Paul. The Corinthians said there was a discrepancy between the way he wrote his letters and the way he was in person: “His letters are weighty and strong, but his presence is weak, and his speech of no account. (2 Corinthians 10:10) It is a serious charge, and in his second letter to the church at Corinthians, Pauk spends almost the entire time defending himself. The critique came from jealousy and therefore bore no legitimacy. But the fact is, the charge can be true – not of Pauk, but of us. Leadership calls for genuineness, authenticity and transparency.
True, there’s something of a cliche about the word authentic when applied to Christian ministry ( Add contemporary, intentional, relevant, and community to that list) If we really need to add the description, authentic, we are probably trying to hard and therefore not being authentic at all. Nevertheless, hypocrisy lurks everywhere, not least in Christian ministry, and we ignore it at our peril.
Godliness must be found in the heart if it is to be genuine. The one who prays more in public then in private or only gives at special events when likely to be thanked for it, or practices spiritual disciplines and let’s everyone know just how difficult a spiritual routine he keeps, his more concerned about the outward appearance than a heart- relationship with Jesus.