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Before God -- Before Men

by Bill Hall

"Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven" (Matthew 6:1).

True righteousness is primarily "God-conscious" rather than "man-conscious." God is pleased as we sing His praises, or teach His truth, or lead in prayer, or help the needy, or give to support His work, if our purpose is to gain His approval and bring glory to His name. But woe to that person who sings for the purpose of displaying his beautiful voice. Woe to that person who seeks the praise of men as he leads in prayer. Woe to that preacher who "tickles the ears" of his listeners. Woe to that person who gives to be seen of men. When he gains their praises, he "has his reward in full"; none awaits him from the Father in heaven.

In keeping with this teaching, the Bible reveals God's judgment of two different couples, one enjoying God's approval, the other suffering His disapproval.

God disapproved of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). His disapproval was not because of the amount of their offering. They had brought a very liberal offering. They had even sold a possession in order to give, and while we do not know what portion they brought, they obviously brought what they thought would be sufficient to impress the apostles. But herein lies the key to their real problem: They were more conscious of men's reaction to their benevolence than they were of God's. Had they been conscious of God in what they did, and had they been seeking His approval, they would not have lied. But they did their righteousness "before men, to be seen by them, " and in their concern for impressing men, they lied concerning the amount which they brought.

In contrast to Ananias and Sapphira, there were Zacharias and Elizabeth of whom it was said, "And they were both righteous before God" (Luke 1:6). While many no doubt observed their righteousness, and as a result glorified the Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16), Zacharias and Elizabeth obviously were not as concerned for man's approval as they were for God's approval. It was God's approval that they sought; it was His approval that they gained.

God blessed Zacharias and Elizabeth, choosing them to be the parents of John, the forerunner of Christ. He punished Ananias and Sapphira with immediate death, and, in keeping with Jesus' statement of Matthew 6:1, they "have no reward from your Father who is in heaven."

Hypocrisy is loathsome to the Lord. For a person to appear outwardly religious and sincere, while inwardly he only desires the praise and approval of men is to be guilty of gross hypocrisy. Let us seek always to do our righteousness before God to be seen of Him. The glorious and eternal "reward, of the Father" cannot be compared with the fickle and fleeting praise of men.

"...upon this rock I will build My church..." Matt.16:18

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