In Luke, the humble tax collector gives his alms with his head bowed, with the words, God, have mercy on me, a sinner’ while the Pharisee paraded around for all to see (Luke 18.13-14).
A few years ago I found myself face-to-face with an ugly truth. While praying through this Scripture, I saw my face as the face of the Pharisee. There I was, strutting my stuff, making sure I was seen, bragging it up. I knew that as I paraded around my eyes looked in disgust on that lowly tax collector, his head bowed, “what a loser” resounding through my humanness.
Unlike the Pharisee, I didn’t need the spotlight as much as I needed the acclaim for my prowess, my talent, my smarts. This prideful preoccupation all too often drove me to some pretty lousy behaviors, laced with bad intent as I absorbed the need to make others look less, so I could look like more. It was a nasty way to be, for sure.
But God is light. Not that He has light to shine on me, but He IS light. @Grace_and_Such
In Matthew 6, Jesus taught how to pray and fast and give to an audience of One, rather than to be noticed by other people.
The rewards are so different depending on who you are doing it for. When you do it for the attention of other people ‘they have received their reward in full.’ That is all they are going to get – some applause, pats on the back, ‘hooray for you!’ It’s one of those lines of Scriptures that sticks in my head and my heart.
For someone like me who was seeking rewards from people, this seemed to have a very low long-term profitability.
As my faith matured, other verses opened up as the Spirit taught me in different ways about this sinful behavior.
My God turns my darkness into light. ~Psalm 18.28
God is light. ~1John 1.5-9
Cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. ~Romans 13.12
It seemed like the Spirit showed me how much darkness I was living in, that I was indeed in a tunnel that had glimmers of light that others shined on me that were soon extinguished, requiring another light to be shone on me, and then another, and another and so on and on.
But God is light. Not that He has light to shine on me, but He IS light. Being with Him, in Him, close to Him keeps me in a brightness that never dims. I need no other light when I am basking there.
Ah, that I could maintain it more often, right??
As I practice this presence of God thing more, I seem to thirst less and less for the world’s approval. But I am keenly aware that it still lurks in the shadows, ready to turn on its little flashlight, inspiring my cat-like chasing of a laser beam across a wall. I am drawn to its immediacy, to its flashiness.
The only thing that saves me from succumbing to it, is to intentionally draw close to God. Because when I do, the burning thirst to be noticed by other people goes away.
In its place is, surprisingly, joy. It is so hard to understand how one replaces the other, how one prevents the other from consuming me.
But it does.
And I am forever grateful that God knew I would need that replacement, that I needed to know that seeking Him was worth all the effort, all the un-attention, all the feelings of being ignored.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ~Isaiah 41.10