Alex is an electrical engineer at a midsize company in the Midwest. Like a lot of people, sometimes he enjoys the projects that come his way and sometimes he doesn’t, but he’s always competent and willing to go the extra mile to deliver excellent value to his employer. What Alex doesn’t do is talk about the extra mile. He’s not a big talker in the first place, and self-promotion just isn’t a natural part of his personality. Yet he has colleagues who often make mention of their successes and are more likely to get promotions.
Many people, if not most, have faced some version of this predicament in the context of their work lives. Battalions of executive assistants sally forth every day to provide critical support to bosses who get all the credit. Janitors show up after the day shift has left the building and leave before anyone has a face to put with their emptied wastebaskets and vacuumed floors. New parents toil on behalf of tiny masters who don’t even speak yet, much less offer words of thanks or praise.
But take heart. Matthew 6 reminds us that God sees everything and His esteem is to be mostly highly valued. The context of this passage is works of “righteousness,” and Jesus talks specifically about charity, prayer, and fasting. But there are clear implications for many spheres of life. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full” (v. 5). Jesus does not deny that there are rewards to be had for such behavior, but these perks are temporal and ultimately unsatisfying.