Should We Let Our Good Works Be Seen? Matthew, 1 Peter

Are Matthew 5:16, 1 Peter 2:12, Matthew 6:1-4, 23:3-5 contradictory concerning whether we should let our good works be seen? Learn the solution.
Bible "contradictions"
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Quick Answer

We should not let our good works be seen if we are doing that for selfish reasons. It is good to let our good works be seen if we are doing it to glorify God.

The argument

some argue that the Bible is contradictory concerning whether we should let our good works be seen. Matthew 5:16 and 1 Peter 2:12 say that we should let our good works be seen, and Matthew 6:1-4 says that we should not let our good works be seen. Here are the relevant verses.

We should let our good works be seen

Matthew 5:16 - Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
1 Peter 2:12 - having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.

We should not let our good works be seen

Matthew 6:1-4 - “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.

The solution

Don't let good works be seen for selfish reasons

The problem with the good works in Matthew 6:1-4 is that they are done for selfish reasons. Jesus says that "the hypocrites" are letting their good works be seen so "that they may have glory from men." In other words, don't let your good works be seen if you are trying to show off or impress others.

Let good works be seen to glorify God

In contrast, in Matthew 5:16 and 1 Peter 2:12, it is good that these good works be seen because they have been done to glorify God, and lead to others glorifying God. These good works are done unselfishly and for a good purpose.

"I don't buy that explanation"

Some people have trouble accepting possible explanations to alleged contradictions in the Bible, especially ones that they consider a stretch. For example, Dan Barker, president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, says this:

I have received numerous replies from Christians who think that these contradictions are either trivial or easily explained. Yet not a single "explanation" has been convincing.

Fact vs Opinion

The fact is that there are plausible explanations for every alleged contradiction in the Bible. That there is a plausible explanation for an alleged contradiction does not mean that it is definitely the correct explanation for the alleged contradiction.

However, as long as a possible explanation has been suggested, then it has been objectively demonstrated that there is no necessary contradiction regarding the Bible verses and passages brought up.

When people like Dan Barker say that they don't find a particular explanation for a contradiction "convincing," then that is merely their opinion. A plausible explanation has been suggested that eliminates the necessary alleged contradiction. They simply don't like it, which is not at all a relevant argument against the explanation.

Additional Resources

To read more about solutions to Bible contradictions and difficulties, check out Norman Geisler's The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation. While we do not agree with some of Geisler's theology, particularly concerning his view of predestination, this book is still an excellent resource. It is thorough and filled with research.

Another book to check out is Tim Chaffey's Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions: Exploring Forty Alleged Contraditions, which also answers many alleged contradictions in the Bible.

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