During the “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus told His followers to
“… let your light shine before men in such a way that they will see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
Later in that same sermon He tells his followers to
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them ….” Matthew 6:1
An apparent contradiction comes from misunderstanding what Jesus meant about letting “your light shine before men ….”
Jesus wasn’t speaking about acts that flow out of a righteous relationship with God like giving or prayer when He spoke of letting your light shine, He was speaking of fundamental, consistent behavior with God’s principles and precepts.
Between His statement about letting your light shine before men so that they see your good deeds and His statement about not practicing your righteousness before men, He explains the type of deeds that people SHOULD recognize in you.
The types of deeds Jesus spoke about people recognizing in your behavior include
- Not being angry Matthew 5:22
- Seeking to restore relationships Matthew 5:23-25
- Being sexually pure even to the point of how you think Matthew 5:28-30
- Being faithful in your marriage vows to forgive anything of your spouse up to the point of infidelity Matthew 5:31-32
- Being straightforward in your speech so that people can take you at you word Matthew 5:33-37
- Being compassionate to people who would do you harm Matthew 5:38-42
- Love everyone, not just those who love you Matthew 5:43-48
These acts are the ones that people should see you do and be inspired by your consistency in a selfish world with the end goal that they glorify God (see Daniel).