One of our grandsons joined a junior soccer team. I watched one game where one of the lads stormed up and down the field and made everyone else on his team look bad. Our boys did not win. The other team had more teamwork and they won. I, too, was a boy one time and made myself obnoxious and an older lad shut my mouth with his feast. I tried to excel as a student and teachers used me to motivate others and that did not made my fellow students like me. We are pleased when we have children with special aptitudes, but not when they continue to show off as adults. Again, I have done it and rubbed people the wrong way. Even as a minister, I have been inadvertently overbearing. I carried good things too far in public.
Jesus had a stern lesson on being overbearing. “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth they have received their reward in full. 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. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Mt. 6:1-4). It is a hard act to follow; nevertheless, it is what Jesus wants us to be and do. We live in a world where people want us to put our money where our mouth is. Far too many have the audacity to demand that those that have must give to those that do not have or do not care to have. We have become overbearing in our giving and in our demands. The truly needful feel embarrassed by publicity and those that make it a habit to live off givers have no shame. It has led to legislating as to who gives and who receives. Our own system is robbing us of our own initiative to help each other in secret.
Jesus also had a problem with the way we use our religion in public, even the way we pray. “But when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth they have received their reward in full. When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Mt. 6:5-8). Jesus had the same problem with people that fasted. “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only your Father who is unseen; and your father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Mt. 6:1-18). It does not speak well of us in our worshipping God in our churches and our display of religion in public. Are we as overbearing as the praying Pharisee? “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself; ‘God, I thank you that I am not like all other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and everyone who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk. 18:10-14). Can we add anything to what Jesus has said?
Jesus also showed us how to do good things without a splash. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me'” (Mat. 26:34-40). James, the half-brother of Jesus, added these words, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (Ja. 1:27). No one should have to tell us how to help others discretely.
Benjamin Franklin, one of the founders of this nation, had words to drive home what it means not being overbearing. “A bully’s greatest fall is when he stumbles over his own bluff.” “Great talkers are little doers.” “If you would reap praise you must sow the seeds, gentle words and useful deeds” (Doan pp. 49, 191). The guest was a movie idol. The ladies that had invited him were enchanted with his own self – exultation. After an hour of self – praise, he stopped and said, “That is enough about me, let’s talk about you.” Before anyone could take a deep breath he asked, “How did you like my last picture?” (Murd.476). Too much love of self is just as bad as no love at all. Some one put it right, “The praise that comes of love, does not make us vain, but humble rather” (WA.1851).