I love getting recognition for something I’ve done. Whether it’s a small act of kindness, volunteering, or helping a friend, it feels really great to get a ‘thank you’ or a ‘wow, that’s so nice of you!’ But what about when no one seems to notice the good we do? Personally, I’m pretty skilled at seeking out recognition: casually mentioning what I’ve been up to in conversations.
We feel a pressure to be seen as purposeful and busy, especially in Christian culture. The Bible tells us to do good and to let our light shine, and that’s a worthy pursuit! But it’s far too easy to get wrapped up in recognition and what other people think of us.
The Bible speaks clearly into this issue:
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
We want to be admired
This chapter goes on to warn against doing things like praying, giving to the poor, and fasting with the motive of being seen and admired by people. Other things you could add to that list include reading your Bible, volunteering, leading a Christian movement, helping at church, etc. Jesus is asking, “What’s your true motive for doing all this good stuff?”
But really ,why do we want recognition for what we do? I can see two reasons: 1) We don’t feel like we’re doing enough. When I look at my amazing friends and other people who do so much good, it’s easy to feel that I pale in comparison. So, if I broadcast the things I do, I can feel like we’re ‘even.’ Comparing ourselves to other Christians in a competitive way is so ugly! We’re called to work towards a common goal, together. Another reason we may search for recognition, 2), is that we really are prideful about what we’re doing. We believe that we deserve to be seen and praised.
Man, oh man, Matthew 6:1 is crucial.
So, should we become hermits?
An important thing to realize, however, is that Jesus doesn’t tell us to hide our good deeds or avoid them in an attempt to be invisible. We are supposed to live radically good and generous lives, so obviously some people will notice: and hopefully love God because of it! This verse is truly a warning against having the wrong motives.
The beautiful impact of doing good
The true reason for doing good, then, is not to be remembered by people, but to impact eternity. It’s amazing to imagine what this looks like! God sees everything, even the good done in secret. He remembers and treasures it all: the piddly little ways we help people, the things that go completely unnoticed, and even the actions we forget about or brush off. These things are stored up as treasure in heaven, while changing and impacting the earth!
I want to encourage you that doing good is always worth it: even when no one sees, even when you feel like it’s not enough, and even when it seems exhausting and menial. Our God is a God who sees, and who loves us dearly. We don’t need recognition or praise from another human to fill our hearts or spur our motives. Rest in that truth today, and go serve the Lord!
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Follow me on social media for post updates!