I attended an historic event in a prison last week. I was witness to something beautiful that I will never forget and was honored to be invited. Because I was in a prison, I had no phone with which to take pictures and no internet service to send pictures, even if I could. I came and went in “secret,” which felt odd. I have been sitting with that feeling all week and am sharing the results of my pondering.
These days nothing seems secret.
I receive pictures of our grandson from a daughter and immediately send them to my parents so they can see their great-grandchild growing up. It is common practice for me to keep my family apprised of my whereabouts and to answer the phone frequently throughout the day, even if it’s a daughter asking, “Why is ocean water salty?” I respond with, “I am not Google. Try searching that yourself.”
Just because we can, we do.
But we don’t have to share everything we do. I giggle to think about my family shipping me off to college years ago. I talked with them for a few minutes each Sunday from a phone in the dorm hallway shared by everyone. The cord was very long and curly so we could retreat into our room if we wished, but most of us just sat on the floor. I had to figure things out on my own. No calling mom, and I made it.
Today, people generally know what I am doing.
But not last week, when I traveled to a remote place and entered a building in a secluded area. My hands felt a bit empty. No photos. The common saying, “If there isn’t a picture, it didn’t happen” is NOT TRUE.
Oh yes, my life happened! That morning was real.
I have been pondering a life of things done in secret. I was reminded in these verses that loving those who love me in return will earn me no reward.
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? Matthew 5:46
Right now I am sacrificing heavily to celebrate a child graduating from high school. The sacrifice is real, but honestly, I love my son and he loves me back. He is going to hug and thank me for my efforts. I am not sure my “sacrificial” love this month gets a reward based on this verse (and others that come later).
It might. I am just not sure.
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. (Matthew 6:1) We aren’t supposed to do anything with the motive “to be seen.” This aligns with the proverb, Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips. (Proverbs 27:2) So being praised is perfectly fine, but not praise about ourselves from our own lips.
Can’t we share the good things that happen?
Of course we can share what God is doing in our lives and good things that happen, including things He is doing in us. What seems to matter to God is why we are sharing. There is no, “Look at me!” space in the Christian life; Only, “Look at her, him or them!” “Look at what God did!” If we are sharing to be seen by people, no reward. The phrase, “to be seen by them,” is the key. Otherwise, we have “no reward” from our Father in heaven.
What about giving?
So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. (Matthew 6:2)
I have highlighted the people-pleasing element again. We can give, but not to be honored by others. I was asked to contribute to the purchase of some equipment this week and quite honestly, the thought crossed my mind, “Those men will be so excited when they find out I donated!” Oh, no. Wrong motive.
If we are living rightly, we do not announce our giving with “trumpets,” or any “look at me!” motivation underneath. If a check is written to draw attention to a cause, or to bring glory to God, fine. If the donation is to draw attention to ourselves and be seen, Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
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. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4) My heart was exposed with a “to be honored by them” tendency, at least at first. I am not giving until that motive is gone. So that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:4)
Faith is always rewarded.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6) Don’t panic. If you are walking by faith, you are pleasing God. End of story. Don’t look for trouble in your heart if there isn’t any!
What else earns a reward?
Take note of the following verses, and note the element of suffering in each one. Our proper response to suffering seems to be the litmus test about our true motivation and something that always brings reward.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11,12) (Notice the “because of me” phrase. This is about suffering for the the name of Christ, not general mistreatment of people because of mistakes or responses to our sin.)
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)
Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10) (I like the boundaries indicated here. Whatever your trial, God knows the day it will end. It is on His calendar.)
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)
In a world of media saturation that allows us to connect to the world from the palm of our hand, secret lives are hard to live. I wonder if each of us should consider cordoning off a particular segment of our life and practice secrecy by not telling people all about it (whatever “it” is). Let’s practice doing something for God alone.
What do you think?
Picture Explanation: To mothers everywhere! Only God knows all the secret things we have done, said, prayed and believed in the privacy of our homes and in the intimate relationships with our people. God has seen it all, even if you didn’t get to tell a friend or take a picture. Thank you for your efforts that are making the world better for us all.
Speaking of things God sees in the secret places of our heart:
If you are interested in being contacted to participate in a One Gritty Blink Bible study in 2023, click on the Oaks Ministries link below and contact me by email. The next opportunity for a face-to-face study starts June 7. Let’s focus on things that count for eternity!
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