I Need You to See the Tip I Left
But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. Romans 2:29
At the coffee shop, when I leave a tip, I wait to make sure the person on the other side of the counter is watching. If they happen to turn away at the exact second I leave the tip, I feel cheated. It’s important for me to know that they know that I tipped. It’s not enough for me to know that they’ve received the money. They must know it’s from me, perhaps so they know what a great tipper I am, because apparently that’s important to me. It’s not a big deal, but I’m pretty sure I might be tipping for the wrong reasons. Somehow I’ve made tipping, not about the other person, but about me.
This may be amusing at the coffee shop, but there’ve been other times when I’ve done good things from evil motives. In my drug addiction, I was terrified of what everyone would think of me if they found out. So, in some misguided effort to balance out my destructive behavior, I tried to do good. I didn’t do good simply for the benefit of others. I did good to try and hide my secret life. I hated myself for my addiction, but I found some affirmation in knowing that other people thought I was a good person.
In today’s passage, Paul spoke of our tendency to be superficially good, just for show. For centuries, the Jews practiced circumcision, which set them apart as a people. Paul used circumcision then, as an example of a ritual that becomes a false, superficial sign of righteousness. Those who were circumcised felt they followed the law and were thus, good people. Outwardly, they played the part. In secret though, they didn’t follow God. They simply followed themselves. They used the facade of circumcision to camouflage their double lives.
Paul said that the true follower of Christ follows from his heart to please God. The fake Christian follows the letter of the law, as far as anyone can see, while actually following only himself. He goes to church. He puts money in the offering plate. He looks down on those obvious sinners. But then he goes home and does what he wants when no one is looking. Any good he does, is done only for show.
Doing good for evil reasons however, is just as wrong as doing evil in the first place.