A friend of mine carries his Bible everywhere. Some wonder if he’s trying to make people think he’s super-spiritual. He says he doesn’t do it because he is strong spiritually but because he knows how terribly weak he is. He had backslidden into sin several times, but now he is determined by God’s grace to stay true to the Lord. He reasons that as long as he carries his Bible he’ll be reminded of its warnings and think twice about falling back into his old ways.

How do Christ’s words in Matthew 6:1-4 apply to this situation? As He was talking about charitable deeds, Jesus taught that it’s wrong to parade our faith in public (v.2). On the other hand, He said in Matthew 5:14-16 that we must let others see evidence of our faith.

The key to understanding this seeming contradiction is motive. If our desire is to do right—to give light—we’re acting in the spirit of Christ. But if we only desire to appear right—to get the spotlight—we have the wrong motive.

By carrying his Bible with him, my friend may be misunderstood, but I know his motive is to do right. He alerts me to my own weakness and need for God’s Word (Mt. 6:13).

May our actions today reflect a desire to please God, not to impress people.