In Secret

Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matt. 6:4b, 6b, 18b).

A friend called me the other night. In the course of our conversation we talked a bit about a mutual friend of ours who is in hospice care and will likely soon be meeting Jesus face to face. This kind woman told me she visits our friend several times a week for short periods of time. She chats with her (even though our friend has now lost the ability to speak), or simply sits with her, holding her hand.

Another friend of mine is a trained crisis counselor. She knows that when she is on call she may be called to an emergency room to provide support to a young woman who has just been raped. She will sit quietly holding the hand of a battered young soul, providing a calming presence in the midst of an unspeakably dark nightmare.

An older woman I know spends hours in prayer for her husband, her children, her grandchildren, her brothers and sisters, her nephews and nieces and for a myriad of friends. Her greatest desire for each of them is to love Jesus and to surrender their hearts to Him. Daily she prays that, no matter where they are on their journey with Jesus, they are growing closer to Him and becoming more and more like Him in every way.

Brennan Manning once said, “How we are with each other is the truest test of our faith.”[1]

To this succinct wisdom I would add, “…especially when no one is watching.” How do we love and care for others when the world is not watching? When no one notices? When no one is around to applaud us?

Yet is it true that no one is watching? The Scripture above tells us there is One who watches, who notices, who rewards.

He sees the concerned grandma praying fervently in the dark; the committed husband sacrificing for his family; caring teachers quietly providing for their students; anonymous donors giving generously without need of fanfare; lunch ladies smiling at insecure teenagers; underpaid nursing assistants tenderly cleaning incontinent patients; support staff working patiently with mentally ill clients; a compassionate woman quietly holding the hand of her sick friend; tired grandparents cheerfully watching their energetic grandkids after school; the busy man patiently clearing snow from his elderly neighbor’s driveway. Yes, there is One who watches, even when the world doesn’t notice.

Being impressed with — and longing for — power, money, recognition and affluence is as old as time. From the Pharisees in Jesus’ day to the celebrities of our day, we elevate those who hold the “power” card and overlook (even dismiss) those who humbly serve behind the scenes. We’re often drawn to those who make the loudest noise and the biggest splash (even those in our churches) and overlook those who quietly carry out their gifts of service, compassion and generosity.

When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—‘playactors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out (Matt. 4: 2-4, MSG).

On this side of heaven, Jesus encourages us to live for an audience of One. He asks us to be His hands and feet, serving Him by serving others, quietly and unobtrusively. He takes notice, even if no one else does. And His reward will far outshine any applause of man.

[1] Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel, (Multnomah, 2005).

Photo credit: zac-durant-1141750-unsplash.jpg

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