And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.
In Matthew 6, Jesus addressed the spiritual snobbery of His day. Showing out before God does not win His favor. Flaunting perceived spiritual superiority before others does not impress the Lord. “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1)
Service, giving, Biblical knowledge, witnessing and righteousness are important to God, but only when backed with proper motives. God desires humble servants. There are many worthwhile Christian organizations. Blowhards for Christ is not one of them.
Jesus refers to those who call attention to themselves when they give to the needy as hypocrites. (v2) Giving should be done in secret.
Then the Lord addresses prayer for show. (v5) God doesn’t honor public prayers that convey the message, “Look at me and how deeply religious I am.”
Jesus also singles out the prayer practices of pagans that involved babbling. (v7) They believed that frequently repeating the names of their deities won favor with their gods. And with that point He reveals something we should all keep in mind when we pray. “…your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (v8)
Many years ago, my mother wanted a sewer line to be run to her house. It’s hard to imagine someone without indoor toilets in the 1970s, but that was the problem she faced. In order to get the line to her house a neighbor would have to give permission to tap into the line that ran through her property. But the lady didn’t respond. Mom then hired an attorney, but to no avail. And so the responsibility fell in my lap. The lady wasn’t a stranger. I used to walk past her house every day on the way to school. My new bride and I decided to pay her a visit. In only took a few minutes for her to grant permission. Then she gave her reason for the delay. “I’ve intended to grant your mother’s request all along. I was just waiting for you to come.”
God already knows what we need. (v8) He can give anything we ask for. But if He always granted without us asking, then there would be no need for us to spend time with Him. He desires fellowship with His children. He’s just waiting for us to come.
I am struck by God’s desire for one-on-one time with us. Jesus instructed, “when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father…” (v6) The supreme power in all creation has given you an open invitation to meet with Him whenever you want. And you’re invited to have those meetings behind closed doors. Just you and the sovereign Lord.
Your relationship to your Father in heaven should be personal. It’s not to be flaunted or paraded for your glory.
What are ways in which we engage in this showboat hypocrisy our Lord warns against? It’s when ego rises above humble service. We seek the spotlight for ourselves instead of God, expect praise for our service, and lift ourselves up as spiritually superior to others.
A Showboat Christian says, “Look at me and what I have done,” and not, “Look at God and what He has done.”
God looks at our hearts and motives. We come without false pretense but in humility and reverence for the One we serve.
As one who has stood in front of congregations as preacher and singer, I know it is easy to cross the line from honoring God to honoring self. A good question to ask is, “Where is the spotlight shining? Me, or God?”
Are You a Showboat Christian?
For more on this topic, check out this article: You Can’t Fake Your Way Into Heaven
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 3 (July – September) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.