|The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XIV: ”On the Consideration of God’s Secret Judgments so that We be Not Proud of Our Own Good” (third entry)
Kempis closes this chapter with the words above, aptly. Keeping with the theme of humility, he cautions against being puffed up by “the praises of men” which come and go; rather, remain steadfast in Eternal Truth.
The Sermon on the Mount continues in chapter six. The proper attitude in prayer, almsgiving, and fasting is conveyed by our Lord. The intention of these acts must be appropriate to gain favor with God. The focus must be on God and others, not on accolades for oneself. The scribes and Pharisees “reward” is the admiration of the people. The disciple’s reward is the approval of the heavenly Father first and foremost.
Gone unsaid in today’s Gospel, but strongly implied in my view, is that the only reward that the hypocrites will receive is the praise of other persons who are taken in by their outward appearances of piety. They better enjoy it now because it will be an entirely different reception from what they will receive on the day of judgment. But, regardless of our motivations, we are not to get caught up in the good opinions of others toward us. As I posted yesterday, these are fine, and can be accepted, but the glory must always go to the One who has provided the gifts we share. The key is to always remember that this life is passing but eternal life is inevitable and we will be accountable for how we behaved in our mortal existence. We eschew the passing “rewards” that puff us up for the truth that God is God and we are not and all that we have and any good that we have done is thanks to Him. If we keep this always front of mind things will go well for us here and hereafter.