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private piety

Piety, in the sense of devotional activity such as giving money to those in need and personal prayer, is essentially a private matter.

In Matthew 6, Jesus admonishes the disciples not to give alms and offer prayers with great fanfare in order to be seen and praised by other people, but to handle such matters privately. Drawing praise to ourselves is harmful to us, diverting our eyes, minds, and hearts from divine love.

Made in the image of God, who is Love, the expression of love from deep within us is natural and can be communal. But the natural expression of our piety should not separate us from contemplation of God by the distracting light of praise shining in our eyes.

Let us turn the direction of that light toward God and away from ourselves.

As Jesus continued,

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who is in secret will reward you.

He warned them and cautions us not to heap up empty phrases thinking we will be heard for our many words, but to pray in a simple, direct manner:

Our Father in heaven, your name is set apart for the sacred.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Provide for all our daily needs.
Forgive us as we have forgiven others.
Don’t leave us alone to give in to temptation,
but deliver us from all evils to see your face.

As we go through daily life we can be dazzled by troubles, pleasures, social complexities, personal problematic tendencies, and more. And we have to keep averting our gaze from the lights shining in our eyes, toward the face of God.

Over and over and over again. Keep coming back.

This is the opposite of heaping up empty words and phrases. It is instead returning again and again to giving as God gives, in keeping with the image of God shining forth inside us.

Every day, pour yourself out as best you can. Give yourself in prayer. Give in generosity to those in need. Give and give, so less remains to impede your view of the image of God inside you.

Let the light of the love of God inside you shine more freely, lighting and warming the world around you.

Your private piety will help the world to see, which is the opposite of what Jesus cautioned against. It’s not shining the light on yourself, blinding yourself. It’s allowing the light to pour forth from within you, that the blinded world may see.