Have you ever asked yourself: “Why am I serving? What is my motivation for volunteering for this ministry or helping my neighbor?” We are wired from a very young age to seek approval from others. As children, we longed to hear our parents congratulate and praise us for our achievements. On a daily basis, my toddler does certain things, and then waits for my praise and affirmation.
Now more than ever, comparing ourselves to others can easily be a continual temptation, especially with social media. We compare ourselves, thinking we are better than or not as good as others around us. We begin to do things to feel better about ourselves or appear more spiritual. Our motive is now more focused on ourselves rather than glorifying God with our time, gifts and talents. When we begin to seek out only the praise of man, then we have missed what Paul said in Colossians 3:23:
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
Matthew 6:5 talks about how the “hypocrites” had selfish motives when doing spiritual things.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”
When reading about these hypocrites, it is easy to think they were such ridiculous people always being insincere about spiritual matters. However, we must be careful to ask ourselves if we are being like these hypocrites, only out to seek the approval and praise of man.
In Matthew 17, we see Jesus’ followers begin to lose their focus and worry about their position and status among each other. Jesus’ response to his followers included some of the harshest words to ever come from his mouth. He called his own followers “unbelieving” and “perverse” and questioned how much longer he had to endure them. Why? Because they were supposed to be on mission with him, to bring salvation to others—not comparing themselves and wanting to be considered the best.
God has given each of us unique talents, gifts and opportunities. These are given to us to benefit and display the kingdom, not for personal gain. Our sinful nature is so subtle that it can defile even a good thing like using one of our gifts. We shouldn’t serve just so that people notice us. We should serve because God deserves to be glorified through our obedience.
Like those hypocrites, we can become so preoccupied with our own ambitions and be distracted by the busyness of our lives that we become ineffective in ministering to others. It is even possible to become so involved in religious activity that we neglect our personal time with the Lord. As a result, we miss the blessings God has for us in being obedient with a sincere heart.
So, this week, let us take an inventory of our individual lives. Ask yourself these questions:
- Where am I serving God?
- What is my true motive in doing so?
- Where might God be wanting me to use my gifts, talents and time?
- What area(s) of my life am I seeking the praise of men instead of God?