“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players … ”
William Shakespeare wasn’t the first to observe the human behavior of drawing attention to oneself, but he did pen a memorable poem about this plight! The temptation to play to the crowds comes to most of us from time to time. It can even catch us unaware. We find ourselves looking for admiration from those around us instead of receiving pleasure from serving God out of our love for Him. God warns us that this prideful boast has no place in Christian service:
“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure— ‘play-actors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.” Matthew 6: 1-4 MSG
God certainly has a lot to say about “playing to the crowd!” Perhaps the most important thing to take away from the verses above is that if we do service for our heavenly Father in order to be seen by the crowd and thought well of, then all we will get is the empty applause of that crowd. We exchange our eternal reward from God for that temporary thrill of being recognized.
True reward comes from God and is a lasting source of joy for us, but in order to receive His reward we must resist the temptation to be seen and applauded. Satan will tempt us to choose pride, even as he tempted Jesus. We must choose for ourselves.
Can you remember a time when you did something for the Lord only to realize in the end that you did it to be applauded by the crowd? How do the verses in Matthew 6 encourage you to serve God out of love and gratitude towards Him alone?