But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
Everything the Pharisees were doing was about the show, the appearance, from what they wore to the position they took and the attention they sought. And when we can only find our satisfaction in being exalted by other men, we will certainly be left very empty. Everything they were seeking had to be the biggest and the best—bigger than those around them, more than others had, higher than people around them. And all of that is the root of a prideful heart. It’s all about a comparison and deeming ourselves somehow better because of those things we have that others lack or what we are that they are not.
But when we choose the best for ourselves and deem ourselves worthy of it, there is no room for God to lift us higher into what He has for us. Choosing the best we can of what this life has to offer leaves us without the even greater things the next life has waiting for us. A continual focus on our own greatness leaves no room for God to be exalted. And while it may feel good to be praised, we only become a hollow shell, void of the value that God has given us. And when only the outside looks good, we can lose those outward things and then be left with nothing at all. And when we only want for ourselves to the neglect of others, we are left with very little.
We should really only be concerned about one audience, and that is God. Our focus should be on serving Him, not ourselves. We should be honoring Him, not ourselves. We should care if what we’re doing pleases God, not what it makes us appear to be to other people. And if our only motive is to please other men, then surely what we do is meaningless to God. When we seek attention, it takes the spotlight off of Him. When we make ourselves too big, it diminishes the work that God can do in our lives.
This attitude held by the Pharisees was the opposite of the humility and meekness with which Jesus wants us to live our lives. It’s not about the outward and the show; it’s always about the heart. That’s what God is focusing on, so He sees right through what we appear to be on the outside. So let us be willing to decrease so Christ can increase. Let’s leave the best for others and take the lower place ourselves. Our unnoticed service often allows us deeper fellowship with God, because when we’re not so concerned with the superficial things, we get closer to the heart of God Himself.