Matthew 6:1–6 (NRSV)
Chapter 6"Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Verse 2"So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. Verse 3But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, Verse 4so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Verse 5"And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. Verse 6But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Our social media ecosystems urge us to display our virtue—in the language of the text, our “piety”—before the world through posts, videos, pictures, etc. We express and affirm our identity by supporting the right causes, eating the right kind of foods, including the right hashtags, and, of course, denigrating the right kind of people. In exchange, we are promised an identity-affirming dopamine hit in the form of likes and affirmations. The Gospel reading this week recognizes that the reward of recognition is a paltry one, and it urges readers to consider why they feel drawn to show their piety “before others in order to be seen by them.” Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with supporting good causes and good food. The scripture is concerned with the “why” and with the inherent human tendency toward establishing our standing, righteousness, and goodness before our neighbors.
Good and gracious God, help us to know deep in our souls that we are loved and welcomed by you. May this knowledge fill out hearts with contentment and peace. Amen.