Jesus wasn’t a fan of grandstanding. He had nothing good to say about the ostentatious show of religiosity that characterized most of the religious establishment, or what he called the hypocrites.
Jesus was clear that when you pray, you pray in private to God, not in public for show. Ditto for giving charity and donations, which were to be done anonymously, expecting nothing in return – not even a thank-you or a tax receipt. If we give charity and donations for the thanks or the tax receipts, that’s all we’ll get. That will be our reward. But if we do them secretly so that only God sees us, God will give us our reward.
Everything we do and say (and think) is known to God. We cannot hide anything from him. It’s impossible to hide from God. If you think you’ve ‘gotten away’ with something, it just means that God’s giving you the time and space to repent. If you don’t repent, you’ll get what’s coming to you. No-one escapes God’s justice.
The measure of your faith and your character can easily be determined by what you do when no-one sees you. When I say “no-one”, I mean no human. God sees you, whether you accept he does or not.
Paul says we should do everything as if unto God. If that’s our default – to do everything as if unto God – then we’ll always choose what’s right and do everything to the best of our ability. Sadly, I don’t think that’s the default for many people. I know it was for Jesus, and I’m pretty sure it was for Paul, but is it for you?
God sees everything we do, hears everything we say, and knows everything we think. Jesus says that everything we do, say, and think will form the basis of our judgement. When figure skaters prepare for a competition, they practice in their training gear, which is any clothing they find comfortable and functional. But when it’s time to compete, they wear special clothing and make-up, and they fix their hair in a special style. Then they go out before the judges and spectators and perform their routine, the same routine they’ve performed hundreds of time during training before an empty arena and in comfortable clothes. They have only one chance to get the routine right when they’re before the judges. No matter how brilliantly they skate during training, it counts for nothing at the competition. All that matters at the competition is how well they skate before the judges.
God’s judgement is nothing like that. God doesn’t judge us on our costume and make-up and performance under pressure. Jesus says that we’re accountable for EVERYTHING we do and say, not just what we do and say when others see us and hear us, or when we’re all dressed up in our Sunday best and on our best behavior, sitting in a pew.
I think that for many, this thought is incomprehensible. They can’t accept that God can see and hear everything, so they live as if God can’t. When they think no-one is looking (or at least no-one of importance), they do whatever is expedient for them at the time, even if involves breaking commandments.
This is the true measure of who we are – what we do when no-one sees us. Jesus didn’t accuse the religious powers-that-be of being hypocrites for what they did in public, but for what they did behind closed doors. God saw them, heard them, and read their thoughts, and that information was made known to Jesus, who then delivered the damning verdict of hypocrisy.
We do not want to end up where hypocrites end up – in the lake of fire. We should instead want to do everything as if unto God, to pray in secret and give charity in secret. We should want to choose what’s right and to do everything to the best of our ability, knowing that our every move is being watched and recorded. We should want to do everything precisely as Jesus says we should, veering neither to the left nor to the right, but keeping straight on the path.
It can be sobering to acknowledge that God knows everything about us, but acknowledge it we must. It is by far the most direct way for us to do the right thing in every circumstance, whether we’re seen by others or not. We are judged on everything we do, but God pays special attention to what we do when we think no-one sees us.
So what do you do?