In Secret | Matthew 6:1-4
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:1-4 |ESV
This is the hard part about giving – about engaging in any of the spiritual practices, for that matter. The thirst for recognition. The lust for “likes” on our spiritual Facebook page. It’s why secrecy is itself one of the spiritual practices – and one we all, no doubt, need more practice in! In the first half of this section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6 Jesus appears to spotlight three spiritual practices – generosity, prayer, and fasting – but he really emphasizes just one: secrecy. He spotlights the three to challenge us to take the spotlight off ourselves as we do them. Pray in the same private place where you change your clothes (we for sure don’t want a spotlight there!). Fast behind a face that looks like you’re on your way to a party. And give the way people on trial typically walk past a phalanx of live cameras – covering your face and scurrying by with no comment. But how it goes against the grain of our souls! We want someone, anyone, to see us standing there with that huge check that takes three people to hold up. Now, the fact is, as Paul recognizes, “good deeds cannot remain hidden” (1 Timothy 5:25); and Jesus tells us to “let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). And there, of course, is the key. As we practice generosity or engage in any of the spiritual practices, we are not paralyzed by shame or driven by publicity. We open our hearts and our hands for the simple reason that heaven and Life have been opened to us. Opening for us ceases to be a matter of calculation. It becomes our instinctive response.
When have you been totally blessed by someone anonymously? How might God be calling you to do this for someone else?
Lord, deliver me from the paralysis of shame or the calculation of pride. Lead me deeper into a lifestyle of generosity as second nature – as my new first nature. Let my primary posture in this world be one of openness before you and the needs of others.
In the next 10 days, find a creative way to really bless someone – and make sure that not a single other living soul knows that you did it.
For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.