THE WORDS OF JESUS
Creative, Causative, Prophetic, Instructional – Part 17
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” – The Words of Jesus, Matthew 6:1-4.
THE ‘LITMUS’ TEST
It was in the 14th century that scientists discovered that litmus, a mixture of colored organic compounds obtained from lichen, turns red in acid solutions and blue in alkaline solutions and, thus, can be used as an acid-base indicator. Six centuries later, people began using litmus test figuratively. It can now refer to any single factor that establishes the true character of something or causes it to be assigned to one category or another. Often it refers to something (such as an opinion about a political or moral issue) that can be used to make a judgment about whether someone or something is authentic or not.
How can you, as a Christian, know if your motives are genuine? Matthew 6:1 is a sure-fire litmus test for authenticity. To wit:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”
Sometimes our true motives are hidden, even from ourselves, covered by layers of ‘good intentions’. When you perform an act of charity or a good deed, or as the Bible calls it, ‘your righteousness’, with either the express intention of assuring that someone else sees your ‘goodness’ or generosity, you have probably missed the mark. If it is done, so you can ‘get credit’, perhaps to build up your reputation as a good person in the eyes of others or in the Eye of God, you have missed the mark of righteousness. (Christian Righteousness is literally “the approval of God” which refers to what is deemed right by the Lord after His examination, i.e. what is approved in His eyes.)
It all comes down to motives. Only you can know your true intentions, and even that can be tricky at times. But here is a way to ‘check yourself’ as you go. Do good even when you don’t feel like. If you feel like doing good, then do it, but don’t talk about it afterwards.
Although applied to ‘slaves’ in the 1st century, Colossians 3:22-24 can also be applied to the ‘Bond Servants’ of Jesus, today:
In everything you do, do not with eye-service, that is with the intention of being seen, as people-pleasers, but do it with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord and not for people, knowing that it is from the Lord that you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.
This, dear brothers and sisters, is another of the great Keys to the Kingdom of God. Treasure it and use it wisely.
Your Brother and Friend,
NEXT: THE WORDS OF JESUS – What Are You To Do With Them? Part 18, The Lord’s Prayer.
PREVIOUS: THE WORDS OF JESUS – What Are You To Do With Them? Part 16, Love your enemies.
A VERY BIG P.S.:
Strange as it may seem, if you get the ‘warm fuzzies’, probably caused by the release of endorphins, you may just be on the right track. Studies have shown that the sensation is known as ‘helper’s high’ and is produced when your brain releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals of the brain. When you do something good for someone else, your brain’s pleasure centers light up, releasing endorphin and producing this high. Not to mention, doing good has also been known to generate feelings of satisfaction and gratitude, (see PsychologyToday.com).
According to a 2013 study examining the relationship between volunteering and hypertension, giving back can have a significant impact on blood pressure. Researchers found that adults over 50 who volunteered about four hours a week were 40 percent less likely than non-volunteers to have developed hypertension four years later.
Additionally, being generous can have the same effect, according to a 2010 study, which found that the less money people gave away, the higher their cortisol levels.
Doing good can also increase life expectancy. Researchers from the University of Buffalo found a link between giving, unselfishness and a lower risk of early death. The findings show that subjects who provided tangible assistance to friends or family members (running errands, helping with child care, etc.), reported less stressful events and, consequently, had reduced mortality. In other words, “helping others reduced mortality specifically by buffering the association between stress and mortality.”
According to a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, altruists in the office are more likely to be committed to their work and less likely to quit their jobs. The researchers also found that individuals in their mid-30s, who rated helping others in their work as important, reported they were happier with their life when surveyed 30 years later.
Overall, the study came to an important conclusion about office altruism: those who help others are happier at work than those who don’t prioritize helping others.
The results are in! After an extensive review of 40 studies on the effect of volunteering on general health and happiness, the BMC Public Health journal has concluded that volunteering is also good for mental health. The review found that – along with improved well-being and life satisfaction – volunteering is also linked to decreased depression.
“People who engage in kind acts become happier over time.” It’s that simple, according to Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside. Lyubomirsky, who has studied happiness for over 20 years, found that performing positive acts once a week led to the most happiness.
In addition, Researcher Stephen Post of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found that when we give of ourselves, everything from life satisfaction to self-realization and physical health is significantly improved.
A 2012 study published in Psychological Science found that thinking about times you’ve helped others will make you want to help others again. The research found that reflecting on your past good deeds makes you feel selfless and want to help more, as compared to reflecting on the times others have helped you. In other words, thinking about what you’ve given others – and not only what you’ve received – will motivate you to do good again and again. (The foregoing taken from Goodnet.org)