I’m embarrassed to admit a couple of things to you: I wish I could say I was thrilled that the Lord had sent someone with needs into my path so that I might share some of the Lord’s kindness, but actually I was a little more bothered than I was thrilled. I had just finished speaking and was tired, I was ready to be home, and I wasn’t entirely convinced the guy was being honest—all perfectly illegitimate and irrelevant excuses.
You’ve probably noticed that I’ve got a little work to do to get to “Good Samaritan” levels of spontaneous selflessness.
But then I helped the guy some, not really very much, and I had my next embarrassing thought. Wouldn’t it be neat if one of the church members drove by and saw me pumping some gas into this guy’s car? They’d probably think I was really generous.
And so what Jesus said in Matthew 6 about helping people secretly went out the door, and my only reward for helping the guy was whatever credit it earned me from whoever happened to observe my less-than-sacrificial act. I’m pretty sure I didn’t store up any treasure in heaven.
At least that’s what Jesus said about situations like that.
He knows we’re like this, so the main point of this portion of the Sermon on the Mount is to help us think about why we do what we do.
To avoid our temptation to put on a show for others, Jesus urges us to do things secretly.
When you give, do it with no fanfare (Matthew 6:2-4).
When you pray, find a secret place for you to have some private time with the Father (Matthew 6:6).
When you fast, act and dress as you do every other day so that no one will know (Matthew 6:17-18).
That’s hard, isn’t it?
When I help someone or make a hospital visit, I find myself trying to work it into a conversation somehow so that people will know.
And sometimes we come up with some really spiritual-sounding reasons why we need to tell people about our good deeds.
Well, I wanted to encourage them in the Lord. (Throw “in the Lord” at the end of any sentence and it makes almost anything sound really spiritual.)
You know, the Lord just opened up a door for me to be a blessing to him. Sounds quite godly, doesn’t it?
Jesus throws this little phrase in that I must’ve overlooked before: “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3).
He seems to be saying that we should practice giving so much that we get to the point that we don’t even congratulate ourselves for the good we’ve done. Not only do we not seek others’ glory; we don’t even pat ourselves on the back. We just act instinctively.
Instead of performing for the crowd or doing it to make ourselves feel better, we serve others because we love the Lord, we love people, and it’s the right thing to do.
So . . . the next time you help someone, don’t tell anyone, and see if you can keep it a secret from yourself. When you can, you’re well on your way to learning the lesson Jesus teaches us here.
And the Lord will reward you openly.
Have a great Thursday!