What do you do in secret?  What do you do when nobody is looking?  In your private time when you are alone?  Jesus told his followers that our heavenly Father sees what is done in secret and that he will make it known (“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” Luke 8:17).  How does this make you feel?  It makes me want to celebrate!

I have been reading Matthew 6 for the last week.  Jesus is teaching his disciples and the crowd in his famous Sermon on the Mount.  He talks a lot about our “secret time” in chapter 6.  He is talking about practicing righteousness.  He tells the people, “Don’t practice righteousness to be seen by people.  Do your acts of righteousness secretly.”  What are the acts of righteousness that he is referring to?  Giving to the needy, prayer and fasting.

Giving to the needy

There are many ways that we can give to the needy.  We can give money.  We can give of our time.  We can give our talents or skills.  Jesus said that when we give of our time, talents and treasure to help those in need, that our right hand should not know what our left hand is doing.  What did Jesus mean by this?  How can our right hand not know what our left hand is doing?  That’s easy.  It happens all the time.  When we sit down to eat a meal we don’t consciously tell our right hand to pick up the fork and stab a piece of broccoli and put it in our mouth.  It happens naturally without much, if any, thought.  And after eating the broccoli, we don’t proclaim to those around us what a good deed we have just done (unless we are little children who hate broccoli and want our parents to be proud of us for performing such a disagreeable task).  It should be just as natural for disciples of Christ to give money to the down and out, or to volunteer at a homeless shelter, or to change the oil in the car of a struggling single mother.  It’s nothing to boast or brag about, unless we have such a childish faith, that we crave the attention of people more than the reward of our heavenly Father.  Jesus tells us the Father, the Unseen See-er, sees what we give, and will reward us.  Those who boast about what they have given and receive praise from people have gotten their reward.

Prayer

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray … to be seen by others.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.”  Jesus was talking to the crowd about how to pray and how not to pray.  Here he  is telling people that when you pray to your Father, pray to HIM!  Talk to  HIM!  Don’t pray to  your ego.  Don’t pray to impress people.  Don’t pray to  preach at people.  Pray to  communicate to God.

How is this  best accomplished?  Jesus continues, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is  unseen.  Then  your Father, who  sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”  If we want to be rewarded by our Father who is in  heaven, by answered prayers, intimacy with God, contentment, fulfillment, joy and peace, then we need to do our praying in secret; in silence and solitude.

Jesus says you don’t need to make long prayers, to inform God of your needs; to go into great detail about your aches and pains; your work situation; family matters; emotional turmoil; spiritual disappointments; struggles with sin and the like.  Jesus says in his introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, that God already knows our needs.  He is not in  the dark about your situation, just waiting for you to spill your guts so that he will understand what you are going  through.  When he gives us the Lord’s Prayer as a model prayer, he purposely kept it  short.  He knows our needs, and simply wants us to acknowledge our needs before him, and depend on him and trust him, believing that he is good and that his love endures forever.  Having confidence in him that he loves us and wants us to be happy, and that he will do the right  thing.  We do all this, if we are  obedient to Christ, in SECRET.

Fasting

I don’t fast a lot.  It’s not my strongest spiritual practice.  I’m somewhat relieved that Jesus didn’t tell us that we need to fast.  He just told people, that if they choose to fast, that they shouldn’t make a big deal about it.  It is easy to make a big deal about it in our culture.  If  you want to impress  people with your spirituality, tell them that you going without food for a meal, or two or three, in order to get closer to God.  That will get their attention.  We love our food.  We don’t just have three squares a day, but we usually graze in between meals with all manner of snacks.  So giving up food for a while,for spiritual growth,  is a big deal, worthy of a reward.

But where do you want  your reward to come from?  From the praises and adulation of people who are impressed with your spiritual practice?  That can be good for your ego, but what about your soul?  God gives you a choice, you can receive your reward for fasting from friends and family, by letting them know what you are doing, or you can receive a reward from the Unseen See-er, our heavenly Father, who wants to bless our socks off with  rewards, if  we keep fasting our little secret, a little secret between me  and God – between you and God.

So, do you have a secret?  Do you do things in secret that nobody knows about?  Things that you prefer to keep under wraps?  I hope so.  I hope it’s Giving to the needy, Prayer, and Fasting.  Sometimes the rewards for doing  things in secret are material, physical, or spiritual during our life here on earth.  Sometimes the rewards are out of this world!  I think that when we get to heaven, God will say, “Well done,  good and faithful servant.”  And then God will reveal to us, and to the multitudes in heaven, what we did for Him on earth, in secret, and how that made a difference in peoples lives.  What a reward that will be!

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The one who gives without regard to who  is looking and does not even notice it as anything special themselves, no “big deal”, is the very one who has God’s attention and becomes God’s creative partner in well-doing.  He or she will know the fellowship of God and see the effects of these deeds multiplied for good in the power of God.  Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy

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