Chapter 14, “The Hidden Righteousness”
Bonhoeffer moves on to comment on Matthew 6:1-4. He sees a sharp shift between Matthew chapters 5 and 6. If left with chapter 5 the disciples might develop a triumphalistic attitude and ignore care for the world, having been set apart as God’s extraordinary people. But here Jesus tells his disciples to practice their good works “in secret.” Since the good works are in secret, Bonhoeffer asserts (Loc. 2205) that they must not be visible for the sake of visibility. Rather, we even hide our good works from ourselves, only looking to Jesus. He says (Loc. 2218) that “we must be unaware of our own righteousness.” Our discipleship, then, is something which consists of looking to Jesus alone.
Bonhoeffer makes some disturbing statements (Location 2231) regarding discipleship. “All that the follower of Jesus has to do is to make sure that his obedience, following, and love are entirely spontaneous and unpremeditated . . . Christ’s virtue, the virtue of discipleship, can only be accomplished so long as you are entirely unconscious of what you are doing.” As he concludes the chapter, he lapses into decision theology and salvation by works, saying, (Loc. 2249), “Who can live a life which combines chapters 5 and 6? Only those who have died after the old man through Christ, and are given a new life by following him and having fellowship with him.”