We need to forget all about whatever good we’ve done, says St. John Chrysostom. God won’t forget, and he’s looking for any excuse to reward us. But we can overturn all the good we’ve done by pride.
Why do you constantly recall what you’ve done, and bring it up to us? Don’t you know that if you praise yourself, God won’t praise you anymore? And in the same way, if you deplore yourself, he will never stop proclaiming you in front of everyone.
For it is not his will that your work should be disparaged. Did I say “disparaged”? No, he is doing everything and contriving everything, so that even for a little he may crown you. He goes around looking for excuses to save you from hell! For that reason, even if you work only the eleventh hour of the day he gives you all your wages. Even if you have no reason to be saved, he says, “I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned” (Ezekiel 36:22). If you should only sigh or weep, he quickly takes hold of all these things as a reason to save you.
So let us not lift up ourselves, but let us call ourselves useless, so that we may become useful. If you call yourself approved, you become useless, even if you were approved. But if you call yourself useless, you become profitable, even if you were rejected.
Therefore it is necessary for us to forget our good actions.
–St. John Chrysostom, Homily 3 on Matthew, 6-7
IN GOD’S PRESENCE, CONSIDER . . .
When I think I’ve done something worthwhile, how modest am I about it really?
Do I look for ways to contrive that people will find out about what I’ve done?
Lord, great in glory, I stand before you in fear and trembling. Sanctify my soul and my body, so that I may bring my offerings to you with a pure conscience.
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