Should you do good works publically with the goal of being seen by men? Before you answer, consider this verse:
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16 (NIV2011) [Emphasis added.]
Not so sure? A good first step in Bible study is always to consider other translations. Maybe a couple more translations will help. As you read these, consider whether we would to do our good works with the goal of being seen by men:
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16 (ESV)
In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16 (HCSB)
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16 (NKJV)
Hmmm… doing your good works intentionally publically doesn’t sound quite right. Maybe looking at the context will help. Looking at the context is a basic of good Bible study, so consider the context:
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:13–16 (NIV2011)
Look at multiple translations. Check.
Look at the context. Check.
What about cross-references? Consider this passage, one chapter later. It seems to be providing some balancing advice:
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:1–4 (NIV2011)
Jesus goes on to say the same thing about prayer: don’t pray with the goal of being seen by men. What is the difference between Matthew 5 and chapter 6? I think the key is the little phrase, “to be honored.” (Matthew 6.2) There is a similar phrase a few verse later where Jesus warns us not to pray, “to be seen by others.” (Matthew 6.5)
How do we harmonizing these two seemingly conflicting passages? Here is my statement: We should do our good works intentionally publically, in order to be seen by men. We don’t do this to bring glory to ourselves, but to bring glory to God.
Here is the good news: this is easier than it has ever been. Social media makes it easier than it has ever been to “let your light so shine before men that they might see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.”
What if everyone in your group used social media strategically to bring glory to God?