Think back to the last time you did something nice for someone? Do you remember the urge to tell a friend, anyone, what you had done? Did you feel like the generosity loop would not be closed until you had been recognized? Did you know that the Bible speaks directly to this issue? Here is what it says:
“Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
This phrase shows up three times in Matthew chapter six. Three times Christ tells us to take a very good thing and keep it a secret. Why would He do this? Well, before we talk about the “why”, I think it’s important that you know what three things He addressed. Here they are:
“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 they have received their reward in full.” Matthew 6:2
Don’t discount this verse as though it’s only speaking to third-world missions efforts. Think about the time when you mowed your neighbors lawn, watched your friends kids while they went out of town, etc. We like to talk about the good things we’ve done or given.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you , they have received their reward in full.” Matthew 6:5
The most overused phrase in the Christian language is “I’ll be praying for you.” Before I get stoned in the streets, this is a good thing to say but only if it’s true. When it is not a true statement, it’s often used to make ones self look spiritual in the midst of someone else’s trouble or pain.
“When you fast , do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” Matthew 6:16
How many times have you heard “I’m sooooo hungry!” during a fast? We are so geared toward bringing attention to ourselves that we will manipulate conversations to highlight our sacrifice.
There is another phrase that shows up three times in Matthew chapter six:
“…they have received their reward in full.”
When you bring attention to yourself in these moments, it takes the place of heavenly treasures. Is it worth it? Aside from the heavenly treasures, why would Christ tell us to keep these great things a secret? Consider these three statements:
- When we do not take credit for generosity, God can be the only one identified as supplying our every need.
- When we do not demand attention with our wordy prayers, God can be the only one credited with answering our simplest cry.
- When we do not distract with the complaints of fasting, God can be the only one praised for moving mountains with a mustard seed of faith.
When you keep your giving, prayer and fasting a secret, the believer stays humble and God is glorified.
Please don’t be tempted to take credit the work that God wants to do through you. Otherwise, you will receive your reward pre-maturely and make less of God in the process.