Posts Tagged ‘hypocrites’

Making It Count

public prayerAnd when you pray, don’t be like performing actors who love to pray in assemblies and stand on street corners so that people can see them.  In all honesty, I say to you, that is their payment.–Matthew 6:5

Jesus: Tell me. What’s up with those people who want to pray in schools and sporting events?  It’s strange that they want to pray publicly.

Me: I can’t speak for all of your followers but I think people enjoy praying together.

Jesus: There has to be something else to it because that’s not praying. I’m kind of an expert on prayer. That is not prayer.

Me: What do you mean that’s not praying?  Of course, it’s praying. It is people talking to God, just like you taught us to do.

Jesus: I never taught you to pray like that.  In fact, I told you, if you want to follow me, not to pray publicly like that.  So this whole concept of praying publicly is the exact opposite of what I asked you to do.

Me: But we pray in worship services.

Jesus: Are you trying to suggest that a high school graduation is a worship service?  Is a session of Congress a worship service?

Me: Of course not, but people want to pray as a way to center themselves, as a way to think of God first.

Jesus: I disagree. The real reason people want to pray in public has nothing to do with their relationship with our Father.  It has to do with their relationship with themselves.

Me: What do you mean?

Jesus: These are not even prayers. They are performances. The whole thing is a pretend conversation with God. And like any good enactment, the goal is to be heard. People pray publicly so that others can hear them.

Me: Sure.

Jesus: Pray so that God can hear you, not everyone else.

No One Needs to Know

george-costanza“Therefore, when you give to the poor do not sound the alarms like those people performing in a worship service or on the streets so that people may honor them.  I say to you, in all honesty, that is their payment.”–Matthew 6:2

Do you see this guy to the left?  You probably remember George Costanza from the great sitcom, Seinfeld.  In one episode, George is furious when he opens a card from a friend.  The friend has given money to an organization in George’s name, an alliance for needy children.  It is a noble gift.  George does not appreciate it.  He sees it as an opportunity to give out Christmas gifts without really giving anything.  He  comes up with a fake, non-profit organization, the Human Fund.  He delivers cards to all of his co-workers with the phrase, “A donation in your name has been made to the Human Fund–money for people.”

What makes it so funny is that we all get letters like this.  I often am humbled when someone hands me a card explaining that a gift has been made in my name.  It seems like a good thing, right?  It feels good to give.  It feels great to know that someone thought of me when she or he gives.

And then there are the thousands of examples of corporations giving philanthropically.  Companies really like to tell the world when they have done something charitable.  Companies like their names on signs.  Giving to those in need makes for great advertising.  It is a travesty to take part in charitable giving and not give a press release.  Like a tree falling in the woods, can a corporation donate money without telling anyone?

Jesus teaches that we need to be anonymous with our giving.  Why?  Doesn’t it feel great to give?  Isn’t it great to get publicity when we do?  Apparently that is the whole point.  Jesus makes it clear that it is not about us!  His followers are to love other people, even those people we do not like.  Our love is to be so genuine that we cannot perform acts of love for our own sake, for our own good feeling.  It is the word, ‘perform,’ that seems important to Christ.  Matthew uses ‘hypocrite’ to describe Jesus’ intent.  Hypocrites are performers, actors on the stage with bold movements so that everyone can see.  We are to be ourselves and not actors.  We are not called to play characters that do charitable giving, no matter how funny George Costanza can be.

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