The Unseen Reward of a Devoted Life
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6: 16-18).
One of our Lord’s greatest attributes was his ability to speak in ways that were both simple and multi-layered at the same time.
The Sermon on the Mount is a prime example of this. On one hand Jesus tells his followers to “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your father in Heaven” (Matthew 5:16). And yet here, in the same sermon, he seems to be saying the opposite: “when you fast, do not… show others… so that it will not be obvious to others… but only to your Father” (6:16).
It seems contradictory, until you realize what Jesus is after. Here, he’s talking about our hearts, and the motivation behind what we do.
When we become aware of God’s presence in our day-to-day lives, he subtly begins to change the motivation behind our actions. Instead of doing things to be seen by those around us (a trap we’ve all fallen in to), we become motivated by the reality that our Heavenly Father sees us and is pleased with us.
The need to be recognized by others dissipates and is replaced by the joyful exuberance of a child who is pleasing to their parent (if you’ve ever seen this phenomenon, especially in a small child, you’ll know what I’m talking about).
As we continue to grow in our awareness of his presence, of his nearness in every moment, doing what pleases him becomes the primary motivation behind our actions. In return, we are rewarded with the gift of living in continual fellowship with the God for whom and by whom we were made. God himself becomes the reward for our devotion; unseen by others, but to us, as near and tangible as our very breath.
One of God’s most miraculous undertakings is the way in which he changes the substance of who we are – and the motivation behind our actions – as we grow in relationship with him. As you go about your day, look for opportunities to acknowledge his presence in seemingly mundane, every-day events.