— from Dallas Willard:
“One of the greatest fallacies of our faith, and actually one of the greatest acts of unbelief, is the thought that our spiritual acts and virtues need to be advertised to be known….
“Secrecy rightly practiced enables us to place our public relations department entirely in the hands of God, who lit our candles so we could be the light of the world, not so we could hide under a bushel (Matthew 5:14-16) We allow him to decide when our deeds will be known and when our light will be noticed.
Secrecy at its best teaches love and humility before God and others. And that love and humility encourages us to see our associates in the best possible light, even to the point of our hoping they will do better and appear better than us. It actually becomes possible for us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than ourselves.” as Philippians 2:3 advises. And what a relief that can be!
"If you want to experience the flow of love as never before, the next time you are in a competitive situation, pray that the others around you will be more outstanding, more praised, and more used of God than yourself. Really pull for them and rejoice for their successes. If Christians were universally to do this for each other, the earth would soon be filled with the knowledge of God’s glory. The discipline of secrecy can lead us into this sort of wonderful experience." — Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, p. 173-74
Many kindnesses go unnoticed. They are still kind. They can still have the desired effect, if the desired effect is to benefit the receiver.
A child sleeps and shivers because her blanket is askew. Will you wake her to tell her you’ve tucked her in again? You’ve fueled up your spouse’s car. Will you follow her to work, park next to her, and announce: You may go now; you are empowered”?
God does not announce, “The sun is risen! I have done this for you,” at each sunrise. It is true, though, that some sunsets are accompanied by more than a little fanfare. They are often spectacular — and yet you have to turn your head or go out of your way to see them. They are kindnesses from our Creator who loves to offer beauty freely.
I know a guy who enjoys fixing little things around the church building. Sometimes he asks what needs to be done around the church, sometimes he just sees something he can make better and he does it. I know a woman who loves to cook and give away a meal. Neither of these two are entirely anonymous, but they are certainly within the spirit of our Lord’s command: Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. (Matthew 6:1) I know they both enjoy what they do for others.
You do too. You already know the pleasure of giving a hidden kindness, the fun of doing something good for another anonymously. Why not look for an opportunity today?
Lord, open my eyes to see an opportunity. Open my heart to make the effort and take the chance to make someone’s day brighter. Thank you for your hidden kindnesses to me. Amen.
Why is it so hard to be generous and anonymous?
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)
Generosity is a wonderful thing; it blesses both giver and receiver. Generosity — whether in giving money, time, service, or a listening ear — is the natural outflow of grace we have received. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
But we often feel the need to be recognized for being generous, especially for our gifts of time and service. Why is that? Do we need the affirmation of our peers? Certainly we want to be appreciated for our efforts! (We just want you to know how much work that was.) And who wants to be taken for granted?!
Perhaps the thought steals in, "What I did for you just now cost me, so now you owe me. Be nice to me. Be grateful.” And so our generosity is undone by our desire for it to be known.
No wonder Jesus commands, But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing…. (Matthew 6:3) A kindness done anonymously remains a kindness, and cannot be undone by self-centeredness. Jesus’ command blesses all involved.
Lord, help us to give spontaneously and frequently. Help us to keep our mouths shut about it in order to honor you, to protect our good impulses, and to protect those we intend to bless. Amen.
The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul. (Psalms 23:1–3)
Do you remember Psalm 23? God’s care for his people is first and foremost his presence with his people. That presence refreshes and restores the deepest part of us — our soul. We are better able to experience his presence lying down in green pastures, or beside still waters. Work and relationships drain us; we need time with God. We need rest.
“Most of us are more tired than we know at the soul level. We are teetering on the brink of dangerous exhaustion, and we cannot do anything else until we have gotten some rest.” ― Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation
It’s not just work that drains us, and it’s not just the pace of our lives. Relationships can drain us, too. You are almost certainly related to or involved with some “high maintenance” people. Solitude and silence are the green pastures and still waters that restore us.
You’re tired. Your Shepherd is waiting to lead you to a quiet spot.
Lord, I’m ready for rest but feel too busy. Lead me where I need to go. Amen.
The events of Thursday of Holy Week start quietly, but are part of a series of events that changed world history.
Jesus gathered his disciples, and gave them an object lesson, a multi-sensory learning exercise. He washed their feet!
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:1–5,12-17)
There is no question about the point that Jesus is making about the priority of sacrificial love among his followers. He pronounced, "Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them “ not from the elevated pulpit of a cathedral but in a room where all sat together. There is no position among those who follow Jesus that exempts us from serving. There is no other priority that excuses us from loving each other.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34–35)
Our lives, families, congregations, and communities are all better off because we attempt to live in response to this gracious command. "We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:18–19)
Lord Jesus, thank you for loving us so completely! Help us to love like you love. Amen.
Yesterday in worship we spent time again in Psalm 23.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23:6)
David is certain the LORD’s love and care will accompany him, and even pursue him. How long? All the days of his life. Now and forever. He will enjoy the benefits of the LORD’s presence daily, without end.
Does David have this assurance because David is special? No, but because God is special: merciful, gracious, loving, faithful to his people.
David’s knowledge, however, is not just intellectual. David has experienced God’s care, and remembers it. He takes the time to remember it, even rehearse it to himself. That’s what Psalm 23 is: a remembering of God’s goodness. David's confidence in God is in proportion to his experience and memory of God’s care. He remembers and rejoices!
What will you remember from today? What do you want to remember from today? How will you remind yourself that God is good? Tomorrow will be better if you remember God’s goodness today.
Pastor Mark loves his wife and grown children, the Word of God, and words. And coffee, chocolate chip cookies, Apple products, small video projects, and the New England Patriots.