“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.”
So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 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. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-4
Yesterday was the coldest day of my life! The temperatures here in Erie, Pennsylvania dipped to a 9 below zero. The heat wasn’t working well overnight. When I woke up my house was very cold. Up north we are recovering from a “polar vortex,” a sort of Arctic hurricane. I spent the day reading God’s Word and trying to stay warm indoors. It could have been a life-threatening situation for anyone who went outside unprepared for the negative wind chill factor. I am very thankful today for the physical warmth I feel now that the weather and my house have warmed up. Praise God for the light and the heat!
Being stuck indoors, I was thinking about one of my favorite places to go where I can find solitude outdoors. It is the place pictured above: Walnut Creek on the trails near the Asbury Woods Nature Center. Here you can be alone with nature and feel the presence of God. It is not uncommon to see wildlife scampering through this beautiful outdoor sanctuary. There is hardly a soul there in the fall and winter when it rains and snows. It is the perfect place to praise the Lord for the beauty of creation and to listen to what He has to say to you. Peaceful. Quiet. Serene. No noise and hustle and bustle of the world. A secret escape, if you will.
Contrast this with the online world. Nowadays it seems everyone has acclimated to using social media as a way of mass communication. People have a strong need to share every detail of their lives, and to play the highlight reel for others to see. They receives “Likes” and accolades for everything they choose to write and share. People learn to thrive on the attention they receive from others. They especially enjoy posting everything good or noteworthy they accomplish, so they can have others pat them on the back. It all feels a little dangerous and addicting, and a little narcissistic. The number of your “Friends” are counted, every comment is recorded for you and others to see, and every “Like” is visible. Did you know the word of the year last year was “selfie,” which is a picture you take of yourself to post online for others to see? I believe social media can be used to help feed people the Word of God and bring people to Christ, but I also believe it is a way for Satan to subtly help feed our egos and self image.
It reminds me very much of the Pharisees who would stand in the public square and encourage others to pay attention to them. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 that they have already received their reward in full. He instructs us to give to Him in secret, so we won’t be puffed up with pride. God wants us to bring glory and honor to Him and to remain humble. He prefers us to stay out of the spotlight, and to let Him have the stage. Everything we say and do should be done to draw attention to eternal things, not the things of man. I admit that I love using Facebook, and I can get caught up in all of attention too. The Bible encourages humility and maintaining a low profile, which can run very contrary to the world’s way of thinking.
I hope that if you are a user of social media, you will ask the Lord to help you see whether you are being like a Pharisee in any way. Perhaps you might not be active on social media, but maybe you have figured out how to gain applause in your workplace, your classroom, your church, where you volunteer or somewhere else. I encourage you to let the Lord show you how to give in secret. It’s not easy to do in this day and age when you can shout to the whole world when you hit the “Send” or “Post” button. You don’t even have to leave the comfort of your couch or favorite lounge chair to make this happen.
I like to picture myself at this creek where you can hear even the snap of a twig in the forest. It feels like a secret getaway. May we remember that it means so much more to the Lord when we give to Him in secret. He made a big point to tell us this over and over again in the New Testament. He had strong names and strong words for the Pharisees who did things for the reward of man, not God. We don’t have to shout from the rooftops every little thing we are doing in His name. Just remember that someday when you stand before God in heaven and give an account for your life He will reward you in a great way for everything you did under heaven in His name. An eternal reward is so much better than an earthly one! Let all of the praise, glory, honor and accolades be reserved for Jesus Christ and the work He is doing in, through and around us to further the Kingdom of Heaven!