In the sermon on the mount we read:
Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them… do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets… And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men… Matt 6: 1-5
But then in the preceding chapter the Lord says:
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matt 5: 16.
What are we to do with these seemingly incongruent teachings?
Every year about this time each congregation in our church around the world turns over the main part of our worship service to the children, the primary. I am very fortunate to be a teacher in the primary. Each Friday I try to teach a group of 4-5 year olds. This also means I get to help prepare the kids for this annual primary presentation to the congregation. The kids sing a number of practiced songs and deliver short messages over the pulpit. It really is fun to watch. As I watched this year’s primary presentation these teachings of Christ were wonderfully illustrated.
I have a baker’s half-dozen kids in my primary class who are all ridiculously cute. One boy who will go unnamed is an incredibly enthusiastic singer. His voice rises well above the rest of the children as they sing their primary songs. I love the enthusiasm. Compared to many of the other children who are so timid they are hard to hear this little boy, though often out of key, is generally a pleasure. Yet if the children are to sound their best as a group we can’t have too much exuberance or too little. Each child needs to listen to the one next to him and sing together. This I think is the key to understanding this doctrine.
I find myself reflecting on my own actions. Am I singing with the group or against it? There are moments for solos but the majority of life is a chorus. I find myself hoping to live and act in such a way as to make beautiful music of life; to let might light shine but not too brightly.