theater for One
Read Matthew 6:7-14. Jesus continues His teaching by giving instructions on prayer. What are the differences between being a hypocrite and simply being a person of prayer?
Where and when are you tempted to be a hypocrite? What changes would take place if you simply did your work for God?
The book Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle tells the story of 10-year-old Phillip, a precocious youngster who constantly angles to get attention. One of the adult characters describes Phillip as “an obnoxious little show-off.” Phillip is loud and unruly and concocts elaborate (and gross) pranks. He acts particularly bad when guests are at his house, and he’s a terror at school.
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle had the perfect cure: show-off powder. Phillip’s mom sprinkled it on his head, and whenever he acted up, Phillip would simply disappear. When he stopped his bad behavior, he would magically reappear.
The addiction to gaining others’ attention is not unique to 10-year-olds. We all face this temptation as human beings. The question for us to grapple with is not why we desire to be noticed—but who we want to notice us.
Jesus confronted those who used their good works with the aim of attracting human praise. “When you give to someone in need,” He said, “don’t do as the hypocrites do” (Matthew 6:2). The hypocrites were ones who blew “trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity!” (Matthew 6:2). Likewise, the hypocrites would “pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone [could] see them” (Matthew 6:5).
The word hypocrite means “one who creates theater,” one who puts on a show. When we put on a display for others, we reveal the fact that our eyes and our hearts are turned to everyone except God. And yet His opinion is the only one that matters. God sets us free from the need to impress others. We are free to create theater for One.
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Matthew 21:28-46
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