A Question I Was Asked:

Should We Show Our Good Works, or Hide Them?

Some Bible scoffers have said that Matthew 5:14-16 contradicts Matthew 6:1-4. How do you answer this?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, as we all know, Jesus stated:

"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 5:14-16).

But Matthew also records that Jesus said the following:

"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).

According to certain Bible critics, these New Testament verses, in two different chapters of Matthew, contradict each other. But there is absolutely no contradiction here at all. Indeed, it just makes one see how desperate certain Bible critics must be in order to come up with something like this!

God, of course, does want His people to do good works and for their lights to shine, but He wants it to happen in a perfectly natural, unaffected manner, not in a showy, self-promoting, razamataz - "hey, look how righteous I am" - manner; just, I'm afraid, in the manner that numerous modern, high-profile tele-evangelists carry on right now!

In Matthew 6 the setting changes, now Jesus starts to confront the Jewish religious authorities and their wish to continually promote themselves. In fact, Matthew 6 continues like this:

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Matthew 6:5-8, NIV throughout).

The point being God wants His people to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), without making a big scene, or a big show. Long ritualised prayers, or things continually repeated are condemned here. Liturgy-only meetings seem to be critiqued here, especially when conducted in a language nobody in the congregation understands! However the Bible certainly teaches that God expects His followers to be doing good deeds. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians:

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:10).

Indeed, during the last week of His life, Jesus taught that His disciples were responsible for doing such things as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick (Matthew 25:31-46).

The Correct Emphasis and Perspective on Good Works

Through the good works conducted towards mankind, but especially toward fellow Christians, God is always to be exalted. Christian men and women must never perform godly works for the purpose of drawing attention to themselves. Some godly deeds may indeed be carried out in secret, or private, these might include giving money to a good Christian cause (which does not mean attempting to support every charity under the sin, of course), or quietly praying for the sick. However, of course, the Gospel should be preached more openly although, even there, without drawing too much attention to individuals - it is the content of the message which should have the fullest attention - not people.

Robin A. Brace. January 25th, 2016.