I often say that some of the most important, most essential part of anything generally happens “behind the scenes”/”behind the curtains.” It’s true in our own personal lives and it is equally accurate in any community or corporate setting. A team that is effective in its sport will practice hard, get in the classroom to watch video, develop new plays and schemes, and will be well organized. A business that launches has invested much time in finding demand, doing market research, generating interest, and finding a niche for its product or service. A church body requires many people to be “all in” in order to have effective discipleship, leadership, outreach, and offer services that honor God, bring Him praise, and relate to everyday people.
Jesus stated, “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. 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” (Matthew 6, vv.1-4).
Our Lord introduced a whole new idea to his followers when He instructed them to do their good deeds and kind acts in secret instead of making a big deal out of it. He followed up this discussion with similar discussions on prayer and fasting (Matthew 6:5-18). His message is simple: when you do these things, do them quietly and without drawing attention to yourself. Your Father sees. Your Father knows. Your Father will reward. But, all that is forfeited if we try to get our reward, our accolades, our praise, our reputation, on earth (read Matthew 6, vv.19-21).
It seems that we can conclude that quiet goodness and anonymous good deeds were a problem for “religious” people in Jesus’ day. Jesus criticized them for the way they loved to show off. When they gave, they enjoyed people around knowing how generous they were. When they prayed, they loved to perform as if on stage using big vocabulary and lofty words – making sure they were recognized for their godliness. When they fasted, they made sure everyone knew the sacrificial act of worship they were engaged in. Long faces. There was possibly moaning and groaning about the lack of food.
Jesus is basically saying to His disciples, “This is not the way we do things!” The same wisdom should still apply today.
As disciples of Jesus, when we do good things, we should just do them because we love the Lord and others. It is not necessary to call attention to our good deeds. It is not necessary to get credit. It is not necessary to hear a “Thank you!” It is not even necessary to be repaid. If you intended to do a good thing, do not ruin it by letting everyone around you know what you did. It is enough for the Lord to be praised for the good you do (Matthew 5, v.16).
When you pray, especially in public, be quiet about it. When you pray, use your simple everyday language. It is not necessary to develop a theologically crafted speech – God’s simply desires to hear from you. You are talking to (and with) God; if others hear you, so be it. If they do not, so be it.
And when you fast, do not tell anyone. Do not announce it in your Sunday School class, your Colony, or your other ministry group as to draw attention. Do not ask them to pray for you because you are fasting. If someone notices you not eating and asks you about it, just give them a polite, “I’m just not eating today” and hold the reason in your heart.
For Jesus, and for Jesus’ people, service, kindness, piety, and generosity are not about the show. It really is what’s occurring behind the curtain, in your inner-life. Not the presentation on social media, and not the talk over the business lunch. It is not necessary to announce, “Hey everyone, I’m about to do something for my faith…watch me!” Our culture and society may want you to post it, tweet it, or copy and paste it – but the Lord is simply saying, “Follow Me. Trust Me. Listen to My words and instruction.” Then, He will reward it.
Blessings and joy!