In my teenage years, I volunteered at a summer Bible camp and worked at our local grocery store during the school year. One memorable a kid and his mom came through my till. I immediately recognized the kid, but couldn’t recall his name. He had no such problem. In a loud and excited voice, “WOLFMAN! I didn’t know you worked here!?!?”
A bit embarrassed, I explained to his mother that this was my camp name and that most people just went with what was on my name tag: Tyler. (Boring). But the funny thing was thing, I had a staff t-shirt with my camp name monogrammed right on it. And I gladly wore this around. I was happy to let people know how I had spent my summer.
“But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen…”
Matthew 6: 17 & 18
Jesus, I think, wouldn’t bother with the shirt. Not that there is anything to be ashamed of there, He just didn’t like to parade His righteousness around in people’s faces. This made him an outlier in his day and those who walk in His steps today will be the same.
At some point, we went from doing good, to standing up for a cause, to raising awareness for it, to buying the t-shirt. But if we are just wearing the shirt, it’s kind of hypocritical, pharisaic even. In fact, Jesus says, even if you are doing the good, just skip the t-shirt.
Launching a PR campaign for our own righteousness is a dead end. So we must examine carefully why we are driven to do it. Most commonly we would attribute it to wanting to seem better than others. But I think our motivation is usually more complex. I would say my desire to wear the t-shirt was more about belonging to a group than raising myself above others, being on the inside.
Our relationship with Jesus, our good works, our prayer life, our fasting, are all there to draw us closer to God. But they should not draw us away from others. Loving our neighbour ought to flow directly out of our love for God.
Lord, help me to stop caring about the wrong things.