Don’t Look at Me

Public relations are very important in our culture, aren’t they? Great value is placed upon how we’re seen and perceived by others, and we’re very concerned about doing things that will get us noticed, appreciated, and admired. This is true even for matters of faith and religion.

That’s why Jesus’ words in the gospel today can be so challenging. He told us that we should be on our guard against performing religious acts for others to see. Our left hand must not know what our right hand is doing; we’re to pray in private behind closed doors; and our appearance shouldn’t reveal that we’re fasting.

Jesus knows that we often bring mixed motives to our religious undertakings. Some of our motivations- the ones inspired by God- are noble and good. Things like wanting to serve others, meet their needs, alleviate their suffering, grow closer to God, and do penance for our sins.

But sometimes we have other motives that aren’t as laudable. We may do religious things because we hope others will see us as holy or be grateful to us for the kind things we’ve done.

When we act in this way, we’re seeking to glorify ourselves- and there’s the catch. Because as Christians, all we do, in one way or another, should be done for the glory of God. As we journey through the 40 days of Lent, let’s always examine our motives, and ask the Lord to purify them, so that what we do is not driven by concern for public relations, but by a spirit of private praise.

Image courtesy of

4 Replies to “Don’t Look at Me”

  1. An excellent point. As a teenager, my father would point out to me certain people who made ostentatious entrances to church at the start of Mass, or that sat in the very front row, or who were conspicuous in charitable efforts – but who, in ordinary life, treated others abominably. One man, for example, was known to beat his wife; a certain woman was known to pay her staff below minimun wage (whilst living comfortably herself). They made a mockery of Mass, and of their Christian faith in general.

  2. A good thing to think about. Concerning sitting in the front row at mass, though, while I appreciate the concern over motivation behind it (and clearly there is something that can be discerned sometimes in the body language a person assumes in so doing, also), there is also a problem in Catholic churches of all the front rows being regularly empty because nobody wants to be the one to be sitting in front. It can get a little bit silly at times. Sometimes I sit near the front myself just because I enjoy being physically closer to the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. A philosophy professor once described a fictional ethical dilemma to my class: one can’t create an ethically sound rule that everybody must bum rides instead of driving – because eventually somebody has to be a driver. Likewise, if nobody is willing to sit up front, the “front” simply recedes backward…

    1. I take your point, Mike. Sitting at the front is good, when done for sound motives. I’m sometimes surprised at people’s desire to sit at the back. One church in DC actually roped off the back seats for a while – until people complained.

  3. Reminds me also of Luke 18:9-14 which is one of my favourite scriptural lessons on humility.

Comments are closed.