Every time a server sets a meal before me in a restaurant I wonder about this passage. Jesus instructs us not to make a public show of our piety. And yet I live in an age and a nation where many people take their food for granted, where moments to pause and reflect are rare, and where many people are not part of any faith community and never pray in public or private.
Isn’t there a place for a public witness to faith and faithfulness? I wonder how Christians in a secular society make their faith visible to others, offering even a glimpse of the joy of a life lived in relationship to God. How can Christians be a “contrast” community if we never appear to differ from the people around us? I feel caught between not wanting to put my faith on display and wanting to put my lamp on a lampstand.
In my own practice, I try to pause and pray before my meals taken in public as a reminder and a witness that life is sacred, that every meal is a blessing, and that we participate in the richness of creation when we practice gratitude and wonder. Maybe others who see me pray will remember that their meal is a gift too. Maybe they will remember those who have no meal to be thankful for. But that’s not why I do it. I do it simply as a practice of living gratefully and attentively.
And yet I hear Jesus’ caution: Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them. Make sure it comes from the heart and not from a need for the approval of others.

God, as our prayers travel from our hearts and lips to your ears, may our lives invite others into abundant life with you. Amen.

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