Smoke and Mirrors
Matthew 6:1,2 When you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do… that they may be praised by others… 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.
Have you ever done good from evil motives? Have you ever performed good works with your right hand to cover up the evil in you left hand? This is a common illusion that I am ashamed to say I have attempted to create.
In my worst addictive behavior, I felt awful about myself. I was constantly terrified of discovery and constantly terrified of what others would think if they knew the truth. So I loathed myself. To assuage my guilt and to make others think better of me, I did good. I attempted to build a façade of right behavior, hoping to fool those around me.
Jesus warned of this kind of deception, calling out the hypocrisy of doing good to cover evil behavior and motives. When I do good for others to see, I am not actually interested in good, I am just interested in me. I use beneficence as camouflage for my pride and destructive behavior.
The defect of my smoke and mirrors has several layers. First and most obviously, when I try to bury guilt, I am just avoiding the destructive behavior that caused the guilt in the first place. In the case of my addiction, it was far easier to try and hide it than to to undergo the misery of getting clean. So, I presented a façade of good behavior which crumbled when the truth was revealed.
Second, I betray my misplaced sense of worth when I try to control what others think. When I am obsessed with my own image, I reveal my focus on self. In doing good just for a show, I show that I am more concerned with my pride than in any genuine good. I am actually using good for the defective motive of self-promotion.
Finally, when I try to use good deeds to cover evil motives or deeds, I reveal my complete misunderstanding of God and his grace. The answer to my destructive behavior is not to attempt to outweigh my bad with good. God is not holding my life in a balance, measuring my good deeds against the bad. Through Jesus, He has forgiven me, once and for all, eternally erasing the weight of my destructive behavior. I cannot earn God’s love with good behavior and I cannot fool him with a sleight of hand.
The answer to my hypocrisy and destructive behavior is not to distract with the illusion of good. The answer is, as always, to turn from self and focus on the father. I am to do whatever it takes to stop the destructive behavior and to turn to God. In doing so, his love will fill me, flow out of me and produce authentic good, untainted by self-promotion.