One of the old sayings that I try to live by is “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” It comes in many forms, such as “Things aren’t always what they seem,” and although it is a cliché, it’s still true. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I am afraid of thunderstorms. Specifically, what always rattled me was the thunder because of its loudness. The lightning only bothered me because I knew that the loud thunder would not be far behind it. It wasn’t until much later that I learned that thunder was merely noise, but it wouldn’t hurt you, and the silent lightning was what could harm you if you were extremely unlucky enough to be hit by it.
There are other instances of things which appear to be beneficial yet can hurt us if we are not vigilant. For example, people who seem to be full of piety and keeping up a good appearance may be exactly that, or they may just be showing off to “show” their worth to an admiring world. It is up to us to discern the wheat from the chaff and to practice that which we have been commanded to do.
Jesus warns us against falling into this trap in Matthew 6. When we give alms, or pray, or fast, we are told not to make a big display of these actions; Jesus tells us that those who do these things ostentatiously “…have received their reward.” We are instead told to do these things in secret, for “your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” In both cases, things are not what they seem, but only one course of action will meet with God’s approval. May we strive never to fall into the trap of doing the Lord’s work merely to bolster our egos, but always to further the advance of God’s Kingdom here on Earth.