by Kent Chevalier
Let me start off by saying that I’m guilty of what I’m about to write. However, in the last few years and weeks, God has been convicting me of my motives.
Since the meteoric rise of social media, the serving and philanthropic work of churches, non-profits and businesses has been blasted across our feeds. It’s not a new concept, but it’s in our faces now more than ever. There are livestreams and Instagram posts of churches serving public schools and doing neighborhood prayer walks. Businesses are making commercials to show their community service with their logo in the corner of the screen throughout. Non-profits are highlighting the clients they’re helping while flashing statistics that conclude with their website.
I am struggling with this public display of serving. Most of us would look at this and think it’s great. I do too, but I also question my/their motives.
Jesus preached a famous sermon on this very topic. In what is now referred to as the ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ Jesus said,
"Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4)
Jesus refers to two groups and two rewards.
Jesus said don’t be like the trumpet blowing hypocrites. Ouch. Consider me Miles Davis. I’m that guy. What about you?
I don’t want to be that guy anymore. This is where God has been working on my motives. I didn’t even realize that I was doing it, or maybe I did, but I still wanted people to see me doing the things that Jesus said to keep secret. I can be a good actor (hypocrite).
He said that all of the Louis Armstrong givers have already received our reward. Recognition of others. More business. Applause of men. Social media followers. Funds raised. All of these seem to fall short of the second reward.
Jesus said to be a secret server. Be a quiet giver. He went so far as to say don’t even let your left hand know what your right hand is giving.
Do Jesus’ words “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” mean we should never let others know? Not necessarily. The focus is on the motive. Our serving and generosity is to be motivated by our love for God and our focus on eternity rather than the temporary praise of people. Because of the temptation for pride that comes with public displays of generosity, it is best not to draw attention to ourselves and our gifts to those in need.
What is the second reward? Jesus is not really specific here, but you get the sense that it’s better than accolades and temporary recognition. I’ve come to trust that his ways are better than mine.
God does not always define reward the same way we do. When we think of God rewarding us for obeying His commands and doing life His way, we usually think of tangible, material goodies. But God has eternity and eternal rewards in mind.
God’s been taking me to school on this. Like I said at the beginning, I have been the ‘Dizzy Gillespie’ of public displays of serving, but I want to get better at following Jesus’ instructions. I want to get better at secret serving.
What about you?