The desire to be famous or renowned for spiritual activities is a deceptive trap. It fails to impress God at all.
The present command, “be continually being careful,” comes from a word meaning “to hold the mind on something or to pay attention.” In other words, we are to take great care not to be faking a walk with God. This brings us to the meaning of love: doing things to benefit others without concern for personal benefit. When anything is done to seek personal benefit, it is not motivated by love.
This command suggests that we should prepare our hearts before engaging in spiritual actions such as tithing (Matt 6:2), praying (6:5), and fasting (6:16). We should meditate on our heartfelt purpose or motive before doing any spiritual activity.
Never do any spiritual service “to be seen by people.” The word for “to be seen” means “to be noticed.” It is a term related to the word theater or acting. Don’t just play the part of a spiritually motivated person. The word hypocrite is the word for actors in a play. Live as though God is the only audience.
This is not a restriction from doing public ministry, but a warning to be careful about your motives. Are you genuinely seeking to benefit others without regard to personal benefit?
The failure to heed this command has dire consequences. God rewards us beyond our imaginations for sincere service for His honor (Matt 5:12), but when we seek the glory or benefit for ourselves, then the reward disappears from heaven’s balance sheet: “they have their glory from men,” but that is all they will receive (5:2).
Testifying to what God has done through our lives that seek to honor His name and exalt His power should always point to the Savior, not to the speaker. None of this should inhibit us from daring service for our King, but it should keep us monitoring our motives and confessing and repenting our pride and self–seeking benefits.
Paul wrote, “if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit” (1 Cor 13:3). That is, even martyrdom means nothing to God if we hope for personal glory with no benefit to others. Take care to focus on serving others for their benefit and the honor of our Lord’s name.
“Lord, I need Your wisdom to know how to talk about what You do through my life without desiring any credit or recognition. You alone are worthy.”