How to Be Religious

David Bast

READ : Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18

I once saw a book with the intriguing title How to Be a Christian without Being Religious. It wasn’t really arguing against being religious. It was arguing against being religious in the wrong way. That’s what Jesus is doing in a passage which could be called, How To Be Religious While Being a Christian.

Jesus’ point is simple. He says that religious acts must be done for God alone. “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them” (v. 1). Jesus reminds us that there is only one proper audience for all our good works, and he doesn’t have to be told who has done what.

Religion isn’t something we do for other people to enhance our reputation for spirituality. It isn’t even something we do for ourselves. It’s something we do to honor God and express our love and thanks to him.

Here’s a practical test: Do you feel the need to blow your own horn? (v. 2.) Do you feel upset if your good works aren’t acknowledged? Then ask yourself why you did them. If it was to stroke your own ego, then of course you should make sure you get the credit, and once you have it, you also have your reward the only reward you’ll ever get (vv. 2, 5, 16). But if you give and pray and do good out of love for God, then you’ll want to keep these things secret, so that they can be just between you and your Father.


Heavenly Father, you see what is done in secret. Receive my secret prayers today. Through Jesus Christ. Amen.