The core circle is God, who enables me to expand my devotion and duties in larger and larger spheres. Too often, though, it is the outer “circle” -- the world -- that drives me, distracting me from paying attention to God, and then my closest relationships. The result is predictable: I spin out of control, wobbling like a top, ending up in places I never intended.
Too often I project about what (I think) other people will think of how I do what I do and act accordingly -- more worried about their opinion than God’s, or those closest to me. Or, I form opinions on how and what others do, without really understanding why. So, a favorite “commentator” of mine, Eugene Peterson helps me realign my relationships. He paraphrased Matthew 6:1-4: Christ’s warning to His disciples on carrying out duties and devotions this way:
The World Is Not a Stage
"Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won't be applauding.
"When you do something for someone else, don't call attention to yourself. You've seen them in action, I'm sure — 'playactors' I call them — treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that's all they get. When you help someone out, don't think about how it looks. Just do it — quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out. (Matthew 6:1-4 from THE MESSAGE.)