"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, 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 men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."1
Pastor Ed Hart shared in a sermon: "Anyone who has put in a lawn understands about crabgrass because it hides there. It's there but you don't know it. Just when you think you have mastered the perfect lawn, lush and green, and you are sitting, taking in all that wonderful oxygen coming off those little blades of grass, you see it ... and you say to yourself, 'Aha! I've caught it in time. I've got it just as it is starting!' However, as you begin to remove the crabgrass, you realize it's been there all the time—forever!
"Just when we think we're doing great in the Christian life ... we discover something about ourselves that C.S. Lewis understood very well. In his book, Screwtape Letters, (a book of imagined correspondence between a major devil and his nephew, Wormwood, a junior devil), he writes the following to Wormwood, about humility:
"I see only one thing to do at the moment—as your patient (a young Christian) has become humble. Have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is especially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, 'By Jove, I'm being humble!' And almost immediately pride, pride at his own humility, will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother this new form of pride, make him proud of his attempt. Through as many stages as you please, but don't try this too long for fear you will awaken his sense of humor and proportion. In which case he will merely laugh at you and go to bed."
"Lewis caught it. It is so easy to become puffed up about our own goodness, our good deeds, and our self-righteousness, and to take pride in it—and it's the crabgrass of our soul that sneaks in there. Jesus warned us not to be like the hypocrites who do all for an outward show, and not to take ourselves too seriously. What we do should not be for appearance sake. But when we see 'the crabgrass of pride' poking up its ugly head, recognize it for what it is. Dismiss it. Laugh at yourself and go to bed."2
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to purify my motives and do good deeds because I love You and those whom You love. I admit that I need much help to do this. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus's name, amen."
1. Matthew 6:1-2 (NIV).
2. Edgar P. Hart, in his sermon, "Not All Is What It Seems." First Presbyterian Church of Napa, California. May 12, 2002.