Something about driving brings out the worst in people. Even the most gentle individuals can be provoked to raise their voices at some anonymous imbecile driving like they’re a couple wrong turns from the circus.
I tend to not get angry behind the wheel (you can even ask my wife!)—primarily because I know the foolishness I’ve committed and am still capable of while driving. But one thing that consistently grinds my gears is when cars fail to use their turn signals. Not only is it simple, it’s important for safety. I just can’t keep myself from voicing my frustration (“Nice turn signal” is my oh-so-clever favorite).
When you’re driving a 2-6 ton pile of plastic and metal, it’s good to signal to others where you’re going. It’s dangerous—even deadly—not to. And so we’re all trained to tap our turn signals, listen to its rhythmic click, and tell the world our intentions to change directions.
Leaving the road behind, we’ve grown increasingly accustomed to tapping our keyboards, listening to the rhythmic click, and telling the world just what kind of people we are. We signal our virtue, making sure everyone knows where we stand, what we think, and how smart, clever, kind, or humble we are.
In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches on three staples of piety: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. Jesus warns his disciples that they must not practice their piety in order to be seen by others. Instead, Jesus tells his disciples to practice their faith in secret, confident that “your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18). Those who want to be seen and esteemed by others will receive that recognition—and nothing more. But we should want more. We should want recognition and reward with our Heavenly Father, not our earthly peers. We must remember that what we do is ultimately measured by the Lord—not likes.
This doesn’t mean that we must never practice our faith publicly. Earlier in Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). We aren’t to keep our light hidden under a basket, but to set it on a stand to give light to the house (Matthew 5:15). Light doesn’t exist for it’s own sake; its purpose is to make other things visible. Still, we can easily use “glorifying God” as a cover to gain recognition for ourselves. We must be wary of the temptation to draw attention to the brightness of our own light, rather than pointing to the glory of our Father in heaven.
Truth be told, part of Christianity is recognizing that whatever light you or I have is nothing more than a dull glow covered by filth apart from Christ. It is Christ who makes us clean. It is Christ who gives us life. It is Christ who makes us new and equips us to shine. If we use the light of Christ to promote ourselves, we have already drifted far from the foundation of our faith.
It is not our duty to alert everyone to the good deeds we do. We do not need to virtue signal to earn the approval of others. Our work is first and foremost for the recognition of God in heaven—who knows what we do in secret and isn’t fooled by our facades. We desire to bring him glory, honor, and recognition. We live for the good of others to the glory of God, whether or not anybody is paying attention.
But please, for everyone’s sake, use your turn signal when you drive.