The warnings about public displays spiritual activity, particularly those focused on repentance may lead to a neglect of those activities, or suspicion of those who we know carry them out.

Esau McCaulley, in his book Lent – The Season Of Repentance And Renewal helpfully points out that the direct application is not the activity or where it is done, but the motivation behind performing it and who we are primarily thinking is observing us.
McCaulley writes about the teaching of Jesus and Isaiah who challenge God’s people about carrying out spiritual activity in a way that seeks the notice of others.

There are numbers accounts of public penance in the Bible. The people of Nineveh covered themselves in sackcloth and ashes and fasted in response to the preaching of Jonah. The problem isn’t that it is public; the problem is that it is for the public. Isaiah and Jesus make points that are much more subtle than we give them credit for. Both speak to the human heart, and getting to the bottom of its mystery is complicated. Any act can be directed toward God or other people. Jesus calls on us to examine our motives. If the problem is with our hearts, merely avoiding rituals won’t save us from danger. We can make a show of not fasting or engaging in public acts of charity because we want people to know we are not like the legalists who do such things. In other words, there is no safe place to hide from the possibility of self-deception.
Nonetheless, discretion matters. Part of the discretion we display during Lent is trusting that rewards from God may be invisible. If we make a show before people, they reward us with respect and status. Rewards from God are designed to make us into people whose lives reflect him in the world.

Esau McCaulley, Lent – The Season Of Repentance And Renewal, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. 2022, pgs. 23-24.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: