In the sermon on the mount (Matt 6:1-4), Jesus warns against performing righteous deeds to win the praise and approval of people. The warning is necessary judging from the fact we are descended from Adam and we suffer from the inclination to want others notice us. If we go that route, the danger is to fall into hypocricy. If you always want to please others (no matter what) and seek their approval, you sometimes need to put on a mask. It is much harder to do righteous deeds when no one is watching than to do them when friends are watching.
The motives of our “righteous deeds” are important. Jesus had a problem with some of the religious leaders of his time for this very reason. He condemned their selfish desire to be noticed and honored in public (Matt 23: 4-6), as well as the exaggerated importance they attached to externally observable and measurable piety (Matt 23:23-25). Of course, Jesus does not oppose piety in itself. He is rather pointing out that everything has its place and time. Again, it is important to remember that God is the ultimate judge of all our actions (done in secret or in public). And if God is the judge, then my primary motivation is to please him and not my friends or relatives or peers. Whatever I say or do, the the person who most matters is God, for he will judge me.
In trying to please others, instead of God, many people have abandoned their fundamental Christian values and have settled for superficial values. If what I want is people’s approval, what do I care about the state of my heart? Afterall, how will people read my heart and give me the approval I seek? What I care is to keep the outside of the cup clean, because that is what people see. The consequence? Hypocricy and deception. Today, Christ is asking us to abandon the “I-want-to-win-their-approval” attitude. In place of that, he wants us to keep God before our eyes for he is the real judge to whom we are accountable.
God bless you for opening up to God’s Word. Remember: You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (Jn 8:32). Stay blessed!