of Creighton University's Online Ministries
June 15th, 2011
Bob Whipple, Jr.
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This is only natural, for whatever we do, most days, we do it among others, and we know that they watch us, look at us, and observe our actions. As a result we wonder what people think of us, how we look, or how we act. This is generally good. We naturally want to behave appropriately, not to alarm or irritate others by our actions, and we want to interact harmoniously with our surroundings. So far, so good.
Today’s reading tells us to be generous, to do good things, to do the appropriate things, not because they will make us look good, but because they are—quite simply—good things. But we’re also told: don’t do these things in order that others may see you.
This puts us in a quandary, doesn’t it? It seems we’re told to hide our individual lights under a bushel (or something). Like most humans, we like to do good things, and, like most, we like a pat on the back when we do so. Everyone likes an “attagirl” or “attaboy” every once in a while. Does this mean that we can’t tell others of our achievements? Tricky, eh? For example, for most of us in the workplace, we have to let someone know what we have performed in order for that performance to be measured—it’s part of how we get evaluated, part of the reward structure.
I think that the phrase “in order to” is critical here—that is, “don’t do them for the primary and sole purpose of being observed to have done these things.” How, then, do we, as social animals, reconcile our desire for approval with the injunction to do well without regard for appearance?
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