In today’s Gospel from St. Matthew, Jesus warns his disciples against hypocrisy:
Give alms quietly, “do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others.”
Pray in an inner room in secret, not “like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them.”
Fast in a manner that no one will know you are fasting, rather than looking “gloomy like the hypocrites” who “neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting.”
Motive matters, not just acts. Are we doing things for God’s glory or our own? Are we giving out of love and compassion, or to get a pat on the back? Are we praying or fasting out of a desire to deepen our relationship with God or so others will be impressed with us?
I suspect that most of us act with mixed motives most of the time. Our purer motives are often tinged with more base ones.
Maybe most of the time the best we can do is hope that our primary motivation is God’s glory not our own. But I also think that greater self-reflection and awareness can help in purifying our motive.