— 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.
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.