The Act & The Virtue
We see all throughout the Bible how God pays close attention to our hearts and motives. When a certain theme is repeated, it’s a clue that it’s important to Him. It nails the point of the significance of not separating the substance from the act and the perils of doing so. For example, the Bible says we can have faith that moves mountains, but if we don't have love we're nothing (1 Cor 13:2). It displays how people can practice righteousness and still not receive a reward from the Lord (Matthew 6:2). It also shows how we can do mighty acts of prophesying, casting out demons and performing miracles but still....somehow.... miss it (Matthew 7:21-22). So what is it exactly? What are these necessities that are indispensable yet we skip over them? Virtues, that’s what they are.
Virtue is moral excellence, goodness, righteousness. The conformity of one's life and conduct to moral and ethical principles.
So, how do we obtain them? How do we practice it? And when we pursue good works, how do we resist the urge of sharing everything we do with others? Like everything else in life, the guidance that we desire is right underneath our nose in the scriptures. Jesus teaches us how in Matthew 6 when He describes the virtue of doing things in reverence of Him as opposed to being seen by others. Though these principles are specific, they can be used to teach us how to cultivate intimacy that breeds act with virtue in other areas of our lives. It’s important to practice this because the urge to post and do things for the notice of people is a very real thing. With well over 50 different platforms of social media, we have all types of ways of showcasing our good deeds. You can go viral off a picture of feeding the poor, or reading to someone who’s ill. They're great acts of service, great acts of kindness but what’s greater is if it’s more than just an act but a manifestation of the virtue that’s already within us.
"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. " Matthew 6:2
It has been said not to be like the hypocrites and announce righteous acts with trumpets, but in our modern day customs, that’s exactly what we do. We snap chat our good deeds and Instagram sacred things. I vividly remember taking pictures of an occasion and the Holy Spirit convicted me of my "why" behind it. As I pursue more intimacy with Christ, I'm learning it’s not just in the times of prayer and reading like I thought it would be. It’s also in the times when I don’t do something commendable to be noticed. It’s cultivating my actions to say "Lord, this is unto you".
"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: 3-4
So what’s this reward we keeping reading about? It's Him. Each of the wise instructions from Jesus doesn’t point to obtaining money or any other form of blessings. They point to the Father and more of Him. His intimacy, His relationship, and His trust.
Matthew 6 can be translated to multiple aspects of life. Like having real and intentional friendships, motives behind our ministry pursuits and our desires of being successful. It's wisdom that promotes change, but it’s not something that happens overnight. It takes practice. Practicing these principles has helped me see the wealth in having intimacy with God, real friendships, serving in the church and working in the community. Virtue that brings value to life, and brings us closer to God.