“I have been praying for an hour each day that my son would be saved.” Statements like this are difficult to process. While I am glad you have been praying for your son’s soul, is it really necessary to tell us the length of those prayers?
I have been in this situation too many times. In the middle of a good conversation, someone drops in the fact that they fast every week, sold their car to give the money to the local shelter, or spend two hours each morning reading the Bible. I have watched as, far too often, the discussion turns into a sort of passive-aggressive spirituality contest. Never does anyone say, “I do that too and also do this,” but we might as well.
Our spiritual practices of prayer, giving, and fasting are for two purposes: to bring about the Kingdom of God within us and further that same Kingdom in the world. It is not about making us look more spiritual.
I think that’s why Jesus told us to stop talking about it. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus challenges us to something very difficult when talking about these three practices: “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:4b). He tells us to be secretive about our praying, giving to the needy and fasting. He instructs us to keep wraps on how spiritual we are!
Don’t get me wrong, Jesus doesn’t want us to stop sharing his love with the people around us or telling people about who he is. Rather, he wants us to stop using his love, or our sporadic obedience to make ourselves look good, or worse, to make ourselves look better than someone else.
The main question we need to ask is this: who is getting the credit? Why are we telling someone that we mowed their lawn because God loves them? Is it because we want to get double credit of helping and being spiritual? If we spend time thinking it through there is almost always a way to accomplish it where we get no credit at all, we remain totally secret, and any good thought, grateful emotion, or thank you goes to God.
That is the goal. We don’t hide our light, we remember that we don’t have the light. What light we appear to have is only God’s light reflected through the dim mirror of our life. Which means that our goal is to turn people around and show them the true light we are working so hard to reflect.