Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:16-18, 2 Samuel 12:15-23, Psalm 51:16-17, Isaiah 58:1-12, Revelation 19:6-10
One of my pet peeves is when people in public talk really loudly on purpose. Don’t get me wrong, I like loud and extroverted people in general, but the random strangers who want to be overheard irk me. Have you ever noticed someone talking about their awesome adventures, juicy gossip, or busy schedule, and it feels like they want you to hear every word? To know how cool or important they are? As I write this I’m sitting in a coffee shop next to a mighty loud cell phone talker. Deep breaths.
In my work as a counselor, I’ve learned about a common human defense called “projecting.” Projecting is essentially when you don’t want to face your own weakness, and so you deny your problems while seeing and disliking them in other people. Pet peeves are often projections. To be honest, I have on occasion noticed myself starting to talk extra loud in public and I hate it. That’s probably why it really bugs me so much in other people, because I’ve felt my own shallow desire to be admired and I’m not proud of that.
The truth is, most people deeply crave admiration and recognition from others. We want someone to tell us we are cool, perfect, strong, holy, or worthy. Jesus addressed this condition of the human heart in the book of Matthew, when He instructed His followers on how to fast.
When Jesus spoke about fasting it was a common practice for Jewish people, but had become quite a show for some. This practice which is meant to humble people before the Lord, instead made them proud in their own self-righteousness. The fasting people made their deeds obvious to all around them by looking visibly disheveled and afflicted. Like the person talking loudly in the coffee shop, they wanted others to notice and affirm their value.
To the religious people fasting for human recognition, Jesus said, “You have received your reward.” Meaning, “You want human admiration so badly? Then enjoy it. But I know your heart, and you’re not doing this for me.” You see Christ told His followers to hide their fasting because He wanted to keep their intentions pure and their faces turned toward God alone, so they might find their worth and identity in Him.
God is always concerned with our heart than our sacrifices, and He shows that throughout the Sermon on the Mount. The Lord already knows the motives of our hearts and minds (Jeremiah 17:10)—the good, the bad, and the ugly. There is no sense in putting on a show, and there is no need either, because the Lord is “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and great in faithful love” (Psalm 145:8-9).
Christ gave us commands and practices to connect with us, not to put us under another law. As Paul proclaimed in Galatians, “For freedom, Christ set us free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Sometimes that yoke of slavery looks like an insatiable need to have others admire you. But the Lord knows that a true sense of your value can only be found in Him, and so He wants to free you from that devastating rabbit chase.
Whatever works you are doing for the Lord, make Him your audience of one. And “your father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Kaitie Stoddard is a professional counselor who recently relocated from Chicago to Colorado with her husband. She has her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and is passionate about helping couples and families find healing in their relationships. On any given weekend you’re likely to find Katie snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains, checking out new restaurants with friends, or catching up on her favorite Netflix and podcast series.