Trip Lee warns against 'reality show righteousness' at Cross for the Nations 2020

Trip Lee, 28, rapper and teaching pastor at Cornerstone Church West End in Atlanta, Georgia.
Trip Lee, 28, rapper and teaching pastor at Cornerstone Church West End in Atlanta, Georgia. | Ray Neutron

Christians should live out the righteousness of Jesus instead of acting out “reality show righteousness,” said Christian rapper Trip Lee.

Social media and a culture that teaches people to film and publicize their own actions often engenders an attitude of performative goodness, said Lee in a Dec. 29 speech to the Cross for the Nations 2020 conference. He called this attitude “reality show righteousness.”

“Reality shows play into things about human nature that were true even before reality shows existed. We love drama, but also we love to be seen,” he said.

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Just like reality show contestants change their behavior because they know people are watching, Christians often perform actions to impress God and others, Lee said.

“What happens when somebody’s watching you? You begin to change how you act. The eyes start to compete with the task itself, and it can get in the way,” Lee said. “Jesus wants more from us than just doing the right stuff. Jesus also wants that stuff to come from the right heart. If we’re doing good things for bad reasons, we’re robbing ourselves of good rewards, and that’s at the heart of what Jesus is talking about.”

Lee said that Jesus’ teaching on how to pray tells Christians that they should concentrate on loving God, not on seeming good in the eyes of other people.

When Jesus explains how to pray in Matthew 6, He includes a comedic description of people who pray to impress others. He calls them “hypocrites,” the Greek word for “actors.”

Rephrasing the passage’s story, Lee humorously described a hypocrite who blows trumpets before he gives money to the poor to make sure he gets enough public attention.

“Now isn’t that the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard?” said Lee. “Jesus paints a hilarious picture of the hypocrite. Jesus wants us to laugh at them. Jesus wants us to be so disgusted by how foolish that looks that we run in the other direction.”

Instead of performing to impress God and others, Christians should do good without fear of what it makes other people think, he said. They should trust God to reward them as a loving father would.

“What do those rewards even look like? The Bible doesn’t give us that line by line exactly.  

It only says we will gain or lose rewards based on how faithful we are to Jesus,” said Lee. “Trading His rewards for earthly rewards is like trading real money for Monopoly money.”

When Christians obey God without worrying about what other people think, they feel free, he added. A missionary should go to the mission field because they feel a passion for their work and a calling from God.

“There is a freedom knowing that there is approval for you in Jesus. When we know we have God’s approval in Jesus, we can fear God and do what we want. We can give freely without wondering how holy we look to people around us. We can rejoice in God alongside others instead of trying to use them, instead of envying them because they look holier than us,” Lee said.

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