Leif, Hershey, and I have kind of a strange movie-going tradition.
Instead of zipping out after the last scene, we remain seated and watch the credits roll. Yep. All of the credits. We realize everyone played significant roles in the movie’s production, and should receive recognition.
Sometimes when my eyes blur at the speedy names streaming down the screen, I can’t help but wonder…
What if they left someone off?
Imagine with me.
You just finished your first job on a big-screen production. Second-up coffee runner to the assistant of the assistant director. You watch the film in its entirety and begin nudging your mom and great aunt as the credits roll. Quickly scanning the screen for your name or title.
Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Often in our lives we seek adequate recognition for the things we do. Whether it’s getting dinner on the table in time or going above and beyond in a project at work or school, we want to be recognized. We want credit where credit’s due.
Yet, God doesn’t call us to get the credit.
In Jewish tradition, there are three pillars of piety: righteous acts, prayer, and fasting. During Jesus’ time, religious leaders and Pharisees spun these practices into something self-seeking. Instead of acting out of love for the Lord, they practiced them aloud and in public to receive credit and recognition from others. They fell into the Credit Trap. And if we’re honest, we all do from time to time.
Jesus warns against the Credit Trap in Matthew 6:
Yikes: Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. Matthew 6:1
Bam: And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? Matthew 6:5
Wowzah: When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don’t make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won’t make you a saint. Matthew 6:16
Jesus reminds us that it’s not about us getting the credit as much as giving the credit. And all credit, worship, and honor belong to God.
We can choose to give God credit through thanksgiving, adoration, praise, and living as witness to the goodness of God. But we can also extend that generosity to others throughout the day by catching people at their best, celebrating others for doing the very things Jesus would do.