“Be careful,” says Jesus, “not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them.” (Matthew 6:1) “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:18)
Be private, says Jesus, in prayer. “Don’t babble like the idolaters.” (Matthew 6:7) Be private, says Jesus, in giving to the poor. “Don’t sound a trumpet before you, like the hypocrites.” (Matthew 6:2) “Put oil on your head, and wash your face”, says Jesus, when you fast. (Matthew 6:17)
“Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.” (Matthew 6:3)
Yet, Jesus also says, “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
Jesus is telling you that your light shines naturally; it cannot be hidden as you go about “your good works” which you know were designed — by God Himself in advance — for you to complete. As you complete these good works, the glory must be directed back to God. All that is good in you is a direct result of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Let His light shine before others; to God be the glory! And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“How blest you are, when you suffer insults and persecution and every kind of calumny for My sake. Accept it with gladness and exultation, for you have a rich reward in heaven; in the same way they persecuted the prophets before you.”
Jesus isn’t saying that we should provoke unbelievers into persecuting us. We are not to seek “every kind of calumny” but to “accept it with gladness and exultation” when it comes our way, as it is bound to now and again. Most of the time the insults prove to be remarks against our God and Savior not against us. Unbelievers usually think Christians are stupid, naive, or at our worst — narrow minded.
More likely Jesus is saying that a natural outcome of being a Christian is insult and persecution because: we are salt; salt stings the wounds. We are light; light exposes the dark. No one enjoys pain; no one who remains in sin wants to come into the light and be exposed. Therefore, a natural consequence of living for Christ is suffering abuse from those who do not believe. Accept it, but don’t deliberately seek it. Jesus says that is unnecessary for “in the same way they persecuted the prophets before you.”
Suffering for Christ is most evident in countries like China, where Christians are actively abused. These Christians “have a rich reward in heaven.” Those of us who will never suffer this kind of “calumny” must pray for those Christians who do. We must remember that they are blessed beyond our understanding. They are truly salt and light.