As I scrubbed away at another load of dishes, I called over to my husband, "You know, I really don't mind doing the dishes, but I just want you to understand that I've done a lot today." He didn't understand. Was I guilt-tripping him for holding the baby while I scraped dried food off the pans? No no, I really didn't mind doing the task, but in exchange, I simply needed some praise. I needed him to acknowledge what a wonderful job I had done in caring for our baby and finishing the chores around the house. As I began to list off what I had accomplished that day, a well-known passage came to mind:
"Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Matthew 6:1-4).
Jesus gave this address to the crowds at the Sermon on the Mount. He was teaching how to truly understand the Law and the Prophets, pointedly speaking against the false piety of the religious leaders of the day. While hypocrites engage in religious works for earthly gain, Jesus called the people to worship God and obey him with a pure heart.
Standing at my kitchen sink, demanding immediate praise from my husband, I realized how natural, and yet how wrong it was to feel entitled to such acknowledgment. Jesus gave this command because he knew that the human heart is motivated to pursue its own glory by the lips of other men.
As people involved in the work of serving others, mothers can be especially prone to this desire. We show our left hand what our right has done and pat ourselves a little too heartily on the back, puffing up with pride as we consider how much we sacrifice for our children. But that can feed the hunger for more acknowledgment. In response to our works of righteousness, we might seek adoration from our husbands, gratefulness from our children, and respect from folks outside our homes. Perhaps we feel discontent when we recount the number of loads of laundry completed and our husband doesn’t respond with awe and appreciation. Maybe we are too eager to see likes and praise on social media when we share the healthy snack or creative craft we made. In many scenarios we need to ask ourselves, are we drawing out what was accomplished in secret to an audience besides our Father?
As mothers, we don’t want the praises of man and self to become our motivation to work heartily. Instead, may we practice righteousness for our Father who sees in secret by remembering:
He is perfect: Jesus commands us in Matthew 6 to beware of the wrong reason for doing good works. So what then is the right reason? The last verse of Matthew 5 tells us: "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (v. 48). If we are children of the heavenly Father, we must be like him. This command may initially sound daunting, but consider that the Christ who gives it has lived a holy life on our behalf. In this life, we won’t achieve perfection, but because of Christ’s sacrifice, we can be free from the fear of failure or judgment as we strive to “work heartily as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:24b). Remembering that we are righteous in our standing before our perfect heavenly Father motivates us to offer perfect obedience to him.
He sees: Further motivation to pursue good works comes from the reality that God sees. He is a God who knows when we sit down and rise up. He discerns our thoughts. He searches minds and hearts. While man may witness the outward efforts we make as mothers, God sees even the good work in our hearts and minds. He sees every grumble we quiet into thanksgiving during the middle of the night. He sees every decision to give up personal comfort for the sake of our children. He sees every ounce of patience and kindness as we endure the tantrums. We are free from the temptation to perform for man because of the comfort that God sees even in secret.
He rewards: Every outward and inward work of righteousness will be rewarded. Repeated through Matthew 6 is the phrase: "Your Father who sees in secret will reward you." As we pray for our children, provide for them, nurture them, and teach them, our goal is not to receive a “thank you” or “good job.” It is not to see the day they become upstanding citizens with successful lives. Our desire is to hear the praise of God, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”. It is to receive the crown of life, righteousness, and glory. It is to be before the full presence of God and to be made like Christ eternally. May we remind ourselves that the rewards we truly desire are not earthly. Our Father who sees in secret has a much greater reward.
He works in us: If you're like me and your pride is still hungry for the praises of man, here is a humbling word of help. Ephesians 2:10 says, "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." This verse tells us that every meal we prepare and even every diaper we change is not accomplished by our own power. We are God’s workmanship. When we became Christians, it was God who created us new in Jesus Christ to desire to obey him. And the good works that we accomplished today? They were prepared beforehand by God for us to walk in them. Knowing this, how can we claim any credit or seek praise for these accomplishments? When we recognize that all of our righteous efforts are from God’s hand, we can thank God that he works them in us.
God knows all the good work you’ve done today, mama. All the menial and daunting tasks and all the Christ-like heart it took to complete them well. Continue to practice righteousness, not to please man, but to honor our perfect God in anticipation of greater reward. Let’s thank God for giving us the righteous garments of Christ and praise him for the good works he prepares for us. Through all the secret deeds done before the Father, may the glory go back to him.
 Psalm 139:2
 Revelation 2:23
 1 Corinthians 4:5; Matthew 25:21
 James 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:7-8; 1 Peter 5:4
 Revelation 2:7,10-11,17,26-28; 3:5,11-12,21
Sharon Jeong Ide is wife to Isaac and mother to Martyn in Louisville, KY. You can find more of her thoughts at sharonjeong.blogspot.com and @sharonjeongide on Instagram.