Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
This verse is curious to me. At first blush, it seems to be instructing me not to practice my righteousness in front of people, as if I should hide my faith in a secret place and no one should ever have to come face-to-face with it. That is what American society would very much like for believers to do: take our faith into a secret place and not bother them with it. The impulse is understandable, too, since the most vocal believers are often the kookiest. Jesus is not, however, telling me to hide my belief away and never let anyone see the things done in devotion to Him.
Jesus is also not dangling the carrot of reward in front of believers. He does mention that reward is forfeit if things are done in a certain way, but that is saying that reward was a foregone conclusion until we made a shambles of it by doing things the wrong way. And that is an important note. God is a God of blessings. Even a cursory read through The Bible reveals that God heaps blessings on even the most undeserving of people. He loves to bless people and blessing is as much to be expected from the hand of God as discipline and judgment. But God must withhold blessings under certain circumstances. It is not that He does not want to bless — quite the contrary, if The Bible is any indicator (and it is) — it is that blessings are connected with how things are done. Sure, we can all receive the blessing of good weather or a bountiful harvest (or, put in modern parlance, a good ROI) and so on, but there are blessings that are contingent; dependent on how we do things that are prerequisite for the blessing to come. I cannot have peace with God, for example, until I have received the grace of God.
So what is all this about? It is about audience. The One or ones by whom I wish to be noticed are my audience. And my audience will give me my reward. If I perform to be noticed by people, then people will give me my reward. If I am doing the things I am doing in order to be noticed by God, then God will give me my reward. Simple as that.
This reminder is encouraging to me, since I have been feeling rather beaten down of late. This morning was particular horrendous and I will not go into detail, but will be content with saying that I needed to be reminded of this truth. More, I needed to be reminded that my Audience is always watching. As a father, I sometimes look away from my children so I can address other things. My Heavenly Father does not need to do so. He can give His complete and undivided attention to me and what I am doing to be seen by Him and saying to Him at all times. He does this for everyone. I cannot explain, but I know it to be true. I have His undivided attention. What am I going to do with it?