As a father of three kids, I am highly interested in their words and actions. Likewise, God is concerned with the behavior of His children. He expects them to do good works in this world (Ephesians 2:10; Matthew 5:16). More than that, He wants them to have the right motivations. That’s why Jesus warned us about wrong and right motives in Matthew 6.

Jesus identified the three great duties of every religion—giving to the poor (vv.1-4), praying to God (vv.5-15), and fasting (vv.16-18). He warned us not to use our relationship with God as a platform to show off how spiritual we are. When we do that, we miss the reward reserved for us.

Jesus did not say that it was wrong to do these things. He was not focused on the how or how often but why. The Pharisees were doing “good deeds publicly, to be admired by others,” seeking self-praise and man’s praise (vv.1,5,16, 23:5). Jesus said, “They have received all the reward they will ever get” (Matthew 6:2,5,16).

Paul added, “When people commend themselves, it doesn’t count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend them” (2 Corinthians 10:18). Jesus condemned the Pharisees for such self-gratifying hypocrisy (Matthew 23:13-33).

Our acts of devotion to God are to be carried out simply, sincerely, and secretly. He knows who is authentic and who is a hypocrite (Jeremiah 23:24; Proverbs 15:3). Our unseen “Father, who sees everything, will reward us” (Matthew 6:4,6,18).

As we do good deeds, it boils down to one simple question: Who is my audience? Can it be said of us, “You gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the One who alone is God”? (John 5:44).