Sunday, July 7, 2013

Some Things Are Best Done In Secret

I made a commitment to read through the Sermon on the Mount with others and the last few weeks have dealt with doing things publicly verses privately.  Here is the beginning of Matthew 6 (minus the Lord's prayer in verses 7-15)

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward."
"And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,  that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
Our giving, praying, and fasting should not be motivated by wanting to receive the praise of men.  It seems that God is more pleased if we do these things privately.  In the example of the giving to the needy it seems like God thinks we should even keep these acts secret from ourselves. 

As I pondered these passages, a verse from I Samuel 16 came to mind:
"For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Because we know this to be true, that men do look on the outward appearance, maybe that is way these example and their outcomes are repeated in three different ways.  Be careful to do your good deeds in private if your motivation is for the glory of God.  If you do, God will reward you.  If you do good for the praise of men, you will have the praise of men.  This praise will be your total reward.

That thought led me to recall these verses in the next chapter of Matthew:
"Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.
I wonder if we couldn't even say something like, "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not give to the poor, pray and fast in your name.  And I will profess to them, yes, and you had the praise of men. Depart from me I never knew you."
The people in Matthew 7 were actually doing things in the name of Jesus. 

Sobering, isn't it.


  1. This part of the Sermon on the Mount has often caused me to wonder about our "public prayer" meeting activities. It seems to especially tug on my mind when I'm hearing someone go on & on in a public prayer context. Is it the voice of the Enemy saying something like, "Why is she SOOO long-winded?", "Who is he trying to impress with those voice inflections?", etc? Or is it God's Spirit reminding me to be careful with how I talk to the Father in the presence of others?
    Though it may be out-of-line, as I'm sure it sounds UNLOVing or JUDGEmental, I've decided that if someone is taking a long time to pray publicly, while others are waiting for them to finish so that they might have their turn, there's something not quite right about that activity.
    Prayer itself has always seemed a time of humility, reverence, thanksgiving, (humble) rejoicing, etc. It always seems out-of-sync with these warnings of Jesus' when we find ourselves listening for just too long to someone who has a great deal to say in their public praying. I'm sure there are many who'd completely disagree with me, but solitude has always seemed "right", when it comes to prayer and "public prayer meetings" have always seemed suspect (at least since a few readings of the Sermon on the Mount).

  2. Don, thanks for the long reply. These are the kinds of talks I'd like to have with others in person. I know, you'd like that, too!