Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1). In the movie “The Prestige,” Robert Angier performed the greatest magic trick the world had ever seen — but it drove him mad.
It was called “The Transported Man.” On stage two doors faced each other thirty feet apart. Angier opened the door on the right, threw his hat across the stage to the door on the left, the door slammed shut and he disappeared! In an instant, he reappeared on the other side of the stage, opened the door and caught the hat he threw!
The audience roared with applause! They just saw a man travel 30 feet in the blink of an eye! It was a standing ovation — but it drove Angier mad. You see, in order to perform the trick he used a “double,” or look-alike. When he opened the door, Angier fell down under the stage through a trap door.
As he fell, a man who looked just like him was lifted up to the second door to catch the hat, making it seem like Angier reappeared on the other side of the stage. The audience was giving a standing ovation to someone else! Angier’s double was in the spotlight getting all the attention and credit while he, the main performer, was all alone under the stage. He couldn’t stand it.
In Matthew 6:1, Jesus calls us to live under the stage and let God get all the attention and glory. The Pharisees loved the spotlight and longed for the applause of men. Jesus knew their hearts were like Angier’s. So he said, “When you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” (Matt. 6:2).
He said the same thing about prayer and fasting too (6:5,15). Jesus’ solution? “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (6:3-4).
He tells us to give, pray, and fast “in secret.” In other words, live under the stage! Have you ever done a favor for someone without their knowledge? Without anyone knowing, not even your spouse? If not, try it — it’s hard! In our spiritual weakness, we long for recognition. At the very least, we want the ones we help to know so they’ll be grateful to us.
Forget all that! If God gets the glory, that’s all that matters! Let’s absolutely impress the world with amazing kindness, generosity, love, grace, and good deeds, but then let’s open the trap door, disappear, and lift God up to get the applause!
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (5:16)