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Keeping Secrets With God!

Go public with faith-based actions. Hide them. Which is it supposed to be?

Jesus taught his disciples to do both:

  1. To go public with the good that they did.
  2. To keep their good actions as a secret between themselves and God.

How are we supposed to sort that out?

In the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount he first taught his disciples that to push back the darkness they needed to let others see the good that they did (Matt 5:14-16). His encouragement to “let the light shine” seem to echo the voice of creation that said, “Let there be light.” (Gen 1:3).

In the same teaching moment, however, Jesus went on to urge his followers to keep faith-based secrets with God.

  1. Charitable gifts. Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. (Matt 6:1-4).
  2. Prayer. Do it behind closed doors, in secret. (6:5-6)
  3. Fasting. Don’t let others know. (6:16-18)

Each time Jesus talked about how important it is to have something between ourselves and “the Father who sees in secret.”

In context, the explanation of this “study in contrasts” is clearly a matter of motive.

But once we have figured out how to keep secrets with God (and how important that is), while letting the good we do be a light in the dark (and how important that is), how in the world do we practice the difference… ? How easy is the motive issue? Is God waiting for us to ask help with that. Or does he expect us to figure that out for ourselves?

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25 Responses to “Keeping Secrets With God!”

  1. poohpity says:

    I think being compassionate and kind is something that we display openly. I think that is the salt that draws people to the Lord.

    Fasting I think is something that is between you and God and keeping it quiet shows that is between you and God not for others to say, oh look how spiritual.

    I think there is a time for openly praying and a time for closet prayer but it is a heart issue. Then again we may want people to say, oh how spiritual.

    I have received many gifts that I will never know where they have come from. I have given gifts in secret and openly. I like the ones better when nobody knows where they came from because if someone knows where they came from they treat you different and I do not like that. I have given in front of my children to teach them about giving. There are times when I have given to get recognition, I am sad to say.

    When I have given to people on the side of the road it is in public but they do not know me and then I always add this is given to you in the name of Jesus.

    I guess EVERYTHING we do it is a good process to consider the motive. Self evaluation, I think is a really good practice in all things and in all ways. We learn a lot through it and it keeps us busy but it can go to extremes too.

    It is really fun for charity to think of ways to do things in secret and if someone finds out it does not count. I learned a long time ago to try and do something kind for someone everyday and then you tend to walk around with a smile on.

  2. dependent says:

    Wow, great tming as I have been trying to sort out the following example of this tension between two scriptural principles. I ask your input, Mart and friends.

    I have a dear friend of many years who is a gifted businessman and generous giver. I’ve seen him, and helped him, give of his time, energy and resources to our church, other ministries and our local community. Never a hint of showmanship and this humble man would and has accepted biblical correction from me and I him.

    I’ve had the privilege of helping him start a business that is unashamedly designed to operate with uncompromising Christian ethics, a desire for the business to be a channel for ministry to his clients, employees and the community. These goals and values are weaved into the company’s founding mission and values. He unashamedly proclaims that any success is a gift from God and his company will be run for the glory of God. And the way he operates backs up what he proclaims has brought him more business. His passion for excellence and servant leadership is considered by him both a dutiful light to shine and an act of worship. In other words, this isn’t the typical “fish sign on the bumper” Christian business man.

    On a new web site built for his business, he transparently reveals his commitment to Christ and his passion for running a successful operation for the glory of God. On his web site, as a reflection of his stated intent to be a company that blesses others, he has a page that includes a partial list of the ministries and secular charities to which he gives. No self-promoting text, just links. Serves as a great validation that he is ‘walking his talk’.

    Picture a web page that consists of links to both christian ministries and local/national secular charities. One part of me says “good for him”, he’s letting his light shine and confessing Christ before his current and prospective clients. The other part is concerned that he is falling into a trap that results in obtaining his reward here on earth instead of secretly giving and reserving it for heaven.

    The young business is growing by leaps and bounds. Secular and Christian clients alike love to work with him and his organization as they produce amazing quality of work with uncompromising business ethics.

    In light of Mart’s insightful thoughts about “secret” vs “public” giving, do you think the web page described above aligns with these scriptural principals? Why or why not?

  3. SFDBWV says:

    I think the key (for me) is to not think too much about what I am doing and why. This is of course in reguards to the topic at hand.

    I pray and speak to God all throughout the day and night. My morning prayers are in secrete only because I guess the birds and deer and other critters that are in attendance don’t understand english.

    Yet there are times when we pray together as a family or with Matt or Glenna for a various spectra of reasons.

    I lead prayer before Council meetings, My pastor leads public prayer at many public events including church.

    Many congregations all pray outloud to make a noisey din of praise and petition.

    It is about attitude. If I were to want to make people think I was somehow “special” standing in any situation making public by action of praying just for effect, well that would be wrong.

    But praying together, is fellowship.

    The IRS mkes us report our charitable works, unless of course we don’t claim them. If our charitable works aren’t about money, but about aiding and helping people with food, clothing, a helping hand of any kind then it becomes difficult not to include the person you are helping in on the secrete.

    I think the more you look into the Sermon on the Mount the more you see it is impossible to achieve the standard Christ has set. The more we see our need for Jesus to be Lord and the more nessessary HIS grace is.


  4. bubbles says:

    Things done in secret vs. in public:

    It seems like when things are publically done, the person doing it receives the recognition. . but when done privately, God receives the glory.

    I agree with Steve–sometimes good things are just ‘done’–a need is present, and people are there to meet the need. They don’t think about it, they just do it. . not to receive the recognition, but to help.

    The motivation seems to be an important part.

  5. wretch-like-me says:

    If I understand the question, it has three parts:

    A. How in the world do we practice the difference… ?
    B. How easy is the motive issue?
    C. Is God waiting for us to ask help with that Or does
    He expect us to figure that out for ourselves?

    My opinion:
    A. and B. rest entirely on how we answer C. and the answer to C. is YES! (and I am not being sarcastic!) God expects us to imitate HIM; in fact, HE commands it.

    “…In light of Mart’s insightful thoughts about “secret” vs “public” giving, do you think the web page described above aligns with these scriptural principals? Why or why not?…”

    Important question because it illustrates how actions can be interpreted in both directions at the same time. Some may see your friend’s actions and learn positive behaviors…while some may see his posting as ‘blowing his own horn’. (personally, I would ask two questions:

    1. Do the secular charities in question support any causes that could be ‘indirectly supporting anti-christian ideals’?

    2. Are we being tempted to judge this person based on information that is incomplete…namely how can we know his ‘heart’? (There are enough people in the world who make snap judgements without all the facts and most of the time, they are wrong!)

    good insight and valid points all thru…you go girl!

    obviously the opposite of the spectrum from pooh, who likes to get into self-examination; but, if it works, dont fix it.

    Personally, I try not to let my tendency to make things complicated get in my way. I try to meet needs as I find them and let God sort out the details like what is my INNERMOST motivation…will I have enough money/time to meet all the needs. Yes, I do consider the obvious things like ‘Does the secular charity support other activities that I (as a christian) do not?’ However, I dont lose sleep over it once the decision has been made.

    Bottom line: the more time I spend with the Lord, the more I think and act like He would have me behave. It’s not Rocket Science.

    Maybe I am making it too simple…but, hey, HE did call us ‘Sheep’!

  6. daisymarygoldr says:

    Sorry, I do not understand your Qs and I have no idea about what you meant by how to figure out the “motive issue” … but this is how I understand and apply… good deeds to be done in public and good deeds to be done in secret…

    I) The “good deeds” in Matt 5: 16 refers to preaching the Gospel. So, when we preach about the kingdom of God and His righteousness… it should not be in mere words but in deeds or not merely the talk but also the walk i.e. as the Holy Spirit secretly transforms our life from within it should openly shine the righteousness of God in public!

    The preceding verse says: “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt…If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste “godliness”?” (Matt 5: 13 The Msg)

    Jesus continues in v 19-20” “Trivialize even the smallest item in God’s Law and you will only have trivialized yourself. But take it seriously, “show” the way for others, and you will find honor in the kingdom. Unless you do far better than the Pharisees in the matters of “right living”, you won’t know the first thing about entering the kingdom.

    Therefore, IMHO good deeds that should openly shine out in public means disciples of Christ should display “godly living” or “right living” or “a life lived in obedience to God’s laws”. I know that this will offend those who shudder at the law topic and yes, Bob/rdrcomp this is in reference to your comment… just wanted to let you know that I really mean no offense… this is what I think the Bible says… and I could be wrong.

  7. daisymarygoldr says:

    II) The “good deeds” in Matt 6:1 refers to deeds of charity. So, when we give alms to the poor or give to the church or tithe or donate to missionary/relief works… they should be done in secret.

    Showing love, compassion, kindness and giving to others are not taught or told… it is the very the nature of transformed lives in Christ. Jesus is “describing” the characteristics of the disciples’ good deeds by contrasting with the Pharisees’…

    As followers of Christ, when we give we should not be even aware of our giving… it is natural that we help a brother or sister in need and give and share whatever we have… in a selfless way such that we do not keep an account of it… i.e. We give and forget.

    The secret to giving in secret such that we don’t let our left hand know what our right hand is doing… is to “die to self”. When we no longer live for ourselves but for God… we will recognize that everything we have comes from Him. We are no longer our own and nothing that belongs to us is our own. We are simply stewards… and thus we are no longer possessive of our material belongings.

    Although we may work hard to earn… we simply consider our material wealth as a gift form God… we remain detached from it… we are not tempted to hold on to it and hoard it just for ourselves. We allow ourselves as channels for material resources to flow form Him through us… to others.

  8. daisymarygoldr says:

    contd. from above…
    So… no matter what the nature of relief/missionary/charity work… if we realize that our wealth or resources was never ours in the first place…neither we will promote or publicize our deeds nor will we ever seek any attention or recognition for it… that would be hypocritical.

    All recognition or in Biblical words… all glory and honor goes to God the giver of all good gifts… who will certainly reward us openly… for our “good deeds” of selflessly giving away… to others in need!

  9. Mart De Haan says:

    Seems to me that Jesus is teaching us to think about why we are praying, depriving ourselves, or giving to others. If we are doing it “to be seen by others” God becomes irrelevant (by our motive) to our purposes.

    At the same time if we are praying just to get what we want, we could be irrelevant (in that motive) to the purposes of God.

    The fact that it is so difficult, if not impossible to be living for the honor and pleasure of God is an indication that our Father wants us to ask for his help in doing what comes from his Spirit rather than from our flesh.

    I can see by application that “being salt and light” includes the gospel. But in context, wouldn’t we have to say that it first refers to doing what is consistent with the attitudes of Matthew 5:1-12?

  10. mtman says:

    Are we taking this to literally and possibly not taking it as the lesson intended? I think of the Lord’s prayer which we were taught to pray, Lead us, deliver us, etc. The us part of that prayer makes it a corporate prayer. Isn’t it more what is in our heart that is really important?
    Regarding giving I think that depends on what is in the heart too. The Lord knows our motive and intent in prayer and giving. I think he judges our internal motive not our outward appearance or how we carry it out.

    An incident comes to mind years ago where a member of our very small church gave a substantial sum to the church. I recall it was announced during the service about this gift and who gave it. The fellow glowed at the announcement and so who got the glory?

    I think it is the attitude of the heart when praying and giving that our Lord sees and not how it is done. If guided by the Holy Spirit we will be able to discern the time for giving in private and public. The widow’s mite comes to mind.

    Another time comes to mind when our small Christian group re-roofed a man’s home to stop the many leaks he had. It was given no strings attached from the love of our hearts. Until that is, a single member after we had finished walked up to him and said he expected to see him in church next Sunday and if he didn’t he would come by and get him. This non-believer was irate, went to the bank and borrowed the money and gave it back to the church to cover the expense of his roof. No one else saw anything wrong with this. I felt duped into something that went from good to bad. Who got the glory? We do not attend that church any longer as the concept of giving was not for the glory of God but for individuals and selfish motives.

    Like Wretch-like-me says, it isn’t rocket science. It is the attitude of our heart that matters to the Lord and our humility over what he has done for us that we can in turn do for others.

    Cherielyn: I am praying for you and Mark each day, could you give us an update?

  11. berek001 says:

    I think that this forum is a great resource.
    I think that we, as Christians, should take all things to God in prayer. The Holy Spirit will guide our hearts and we should follow His answer. Difficult? Yes, but I think this covers all questions. Our Lord is NOT the author of confusion. Love and Prayers to all..

  12. daisymarygoldr says:

    I get the “motive issue” and yes, you are right… I do have to ask God for his help in doing what comes from his Spirit rather than from my flesh…knowing fully well that my heart is deceptive above all things…

    …hence my heart’s prayer is: “Put me on trial, LORD, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart”. (Psalms 26:2 NLT)

    The good thing though about good deeds of “being salt and light” i.e. preaching the gospel is that… whether or not our motives are pure, the fact remains that the message about Christ is being preached. (Phil 1:18)

    The bad thing about good deeds of charity is that… People of all religions… Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus practise love by doing charitable deeds. In the end when the Judge will test our works with fire… all the good works done with an ulterior motive will be burnt…

    …i.e. if we prayed/fasted or helped the poor and needy because of the love for God or because of some selfish motive… that it makes us feel good about ourselves and look good in the eyes of others.

    The best thing however, is God’s sovereignty. God will accomplish His purposes… even through people with false and evil motives.

    Bottom line is: As followers of Christ … we should seek to live out the truth in everything… so that whatever we do we do it to the glory of God!

    “I can see by application that “being salt and light” …. Matthew 5:1-12?”-MDH. I am totally clueless on that one… sounds like Greek/Latin or maybe even French to my ears or maybe you are speaking in parables! Never mind… I’m confident that with the help of the Holy Spirit, I will get it someday… when I’ll turn 62!

  13. Rick123 says:

    Jhn 15:8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples….If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?(1Jo 4:20)

    Our heavenly Father desires for us to bear much fruit to glorify him. But our reason to do good unto all men is to love God above all things. We should not have a Pharisitical Spirit, who’s reason, is only to lift self up and not God.

    1Cr 13:3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed [the poor], and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing…..13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity.

  14. diamonds says:

    Mart, to answer the question about whether we ask God for help in discerning when to keep quiet with our good deeds and when to be open about them…
    I think that is our problem on all fronts, not asking God, but forging ahead with our own thoughts, our own ideas, our own will, our own emotions. We all too often (myself included) live in our soul, walk by the soulish realm. We can’t hear His voice because we are often too noisy, filling up our mind and ears with other enthronements, sometimes even religious ones. Yes, even those things we call good can be a trap if we fail to search deeply within our spirit to see what His Spirit is telling us. How do we do discern the Spirit’s voice? Well, the Spirit and the word work together. Each one separately is not enough. We begin by faith, believing that God lives in us. And we go on from there by bowing to His Spirit within us. This is also by faith. Most of the time we have to wait and listen. I’ve found out that God is never in a hurry, no matter if I am. How often I forget that the same way I began this Christian life is the same way I live it, day by day. It is a faith walk. I believe that God saved me and each and every day He is making me, molding me into the person He has planned for me to be. I believe that every thing that happens to me is sifted through His gracious hands. I believe that I am growing each day into His image, looking more and more like Him. I could go on and on, but that will suffice for now. Again, yes, we should ask God about that… and everything else as well. Be blessed.

  15. poohpity says:

    I would like to give my heart felt gratitude to those who have and are currently serving in our military. Thank you soooo very much for putting your life on the line for our freedom and safety. OohRah!!

  16. bubbles says:

    I have a question. I was invloved in full time Christian work for 16 years.

    For many of those years I’d pray (and still try to do)
    that I could be used of God like a glove on His hand. I’d ask Him to help me do what was right and pleasing to Him.

    However, this was my JOB. But it was more. It was my life. Many times by the end of the work day, I was like a pencil sharpened down to a little stub–just like all people who work must feel.

    How do I know if my motive was wrong? I just tried to do my very best at work each day. Excellence is important because God values excellence and diligence. I knew God had answered a prayer of mine when I was a teenager–I wanted to work where I did. He gave me the desire of my heart.

    I was taught to give tithes/offerings when I was little.
    When I put the offering in the collection plate, I just do it, I don’t really think about it. I’m thankful I can do it, but should I be thinking about my love for Jesus at that moment? Many things I do because I was taught they were pleasing to Jesus, and I try to do certain things. Many times I fail. I love the Lord, and am thankful for all He has done for me. . .but this thought about what I do has concerned me. Does this make sense? When He has done so much for us, how can we not try and serve Him? I’m just scared my motive has not been what is should be. I’ll pray about this tonight.

    Mart, if you have time; could you please share your thoughts about this question? Thank you for all of your work. Your blogs make me think.

  17. Rick123 says:

    1Cr 3:11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

    If our love is truly rooted and grounded in Jesus, who is our foundation to build upon. And we build our temple on the (Rock/foundation) with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble, it will stand up to the test of God. But if we build our temple with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble, on another foundation which is not Jesus, it will not stand up to God’s test. Because it was not built to please God but to please the flesh… It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and [they] are life.(Jhn 6:63)…When I woke up this morning I heard the Holy Spirit utter (Jhn 6:63) to me.

    Hbr 11:6 But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

  18. poohpity says:

    Can we take giving or doing to a level of legalism rather than a heartfelt action? Can we also take Grace to a point of following the rules rather than something that is freely given?

  19. HEY REV says:

    Who was Jesus talking to at that time and how does He want us to understand now at this time are both important. We all have out personal experiences that speak just to us. That’s how God teahces us at the level we are at. As we grow (Spiritually)we slowly get off the milk and enjoy meat.
    Again we agree that what comes from the heart will show up in the actions most of the time.If the action showed something a little off than our heart was not fully in tune with the Holy Spirit.What is great about that is most of the time we get another chance to pass the test.I wonder how many of us could not drive our car if we only got one chance. I would have been one of them, (at that time) P.T.L
    What I did find out is I do not get to vote on which tests.(even when I die)
    I remember telling my children “do the best you can but than do a little better next time. Today almost all have got their degrees. Bottom line God sets our steps and if we slip, fall, stop, run or even quit,He doesn’t.Remember the school of the Master may be hard many times, but never the Master.Are we doing the “good deeds” for Him, with Him, because of Him, or all of those attributes for us. Each must search their own hearts, not only in their thoughts but also in their actions. One that judgement day comes we (I) will only answer for my own. Sorry Mart your on your own at that time, just like all of us will be.
    One of my professors in colledge asked God
    what direction He wanted him to go. God asked if the direction was wrong He would turn him around 180 / 360 or any direction that was necessary. Just keep moving. (yes, yes I know about the times to rest also)
    From what I read most of your input let me encourage you that you have a good handle on how you understand it and to trust God and move forward, knowing that, “that work which He begun in you He will preform it till the day of Jesus Christ.”

    To Bubbles let me say: your early childhood taught you to do works to please whoever and whenever you can. What you do naturally do not confuse Spiritually. Trouble is hardly nobody (if any)ever told you how pleased God is with you.He loves you so much and is very proud that He honors you. Read Matt 12:26 and Ps 91:15 over and over till you can quote just those two verses. Than never let any one steal them out of your heart.(John 10:10) Yes He had and does so much for you and your trying to catch up to repay. If you even to live as long as Methusleah (969 years) you would not even start the payback.Sounds like your JOB is asking for 120% return work load and you are good at 95%. Why do you think God wants (from You) 120%?
    Listen When your time comes you’ll probably be on cloud 120 and I’ll be on cloud 14. But we’ll both be there.
    I’ll be praying for you that God continues using you as He has for His Kingdom, and glory. God Bless

  20. Mart De Haan says:

    bubbles, sure seems like your heart and concern is moving in the right direction. As James says, we all fall short in so many ways (James 3:2). That’s why our only ultimate safety is in what our Lord has done for us.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that, after being forgiven and fully accepted in Christ, we need to keep reminding one another that going through the motions is not the relationship with God or one another we were called to.

    Living gratefully, trustingly, hopefully, and lovingly requires us to regularly (not obsessively) ask ourselves why we are doing what we are doing. Our focus should not be so much on ourselves but on what God has done for us so that we can say, “We love him because he first loved us.”

  21. ovictoria says:

    Charis, I appreciate your voice. I believe truly loving and serving my husband is warring against the things that war against his soul. Life becomes a battle for the woman married to these things. Suffering the consequences in every way: discouragement, lonliness, and the worst: how can you trust him with your children as he disciplines them as wrongly and foolheaded as he tries to discipline you. What is submission? My submission to Christ compels me to correct my husband. My DESIRE is for him to seek God with his whole heart. To seek the way of Christ and APPLY it to his own life. Hearers and doers have no gender. The issue of submitting as it is generally represented is like telling a christian woman to submit to the world and God. On the surface the woman takes the hit and under the surface she is the warrior for Christ. I’m interested to hear more from everyone.

  22. Godmakesmeable says:

    I just wanted to say that I accidently posted on the wrong blog. My comment (ovictoria) was meant for Marital submission blog. My apologies.

  23. bubbles says:

    Mart and Hey Rev,
    Thank you for your words and time to respond to the concern posted.

    HeyRev, I did not mean for my blog to come across as though I was trusting in works in order to be saved.
    I don’t know about the ‘cloud’ level comment, but thank you and Mart for the verses.

  24. systemX says:

    I may be off topic here, but referring to the title of this post “Keeping Secrets With God”, could I safely say that I can still pray or tell God my deepest heart’s desire, even after he has said to let go of it? I have been told that if God tells you to let go of something, then there is no use telling God about it anymore, and that my efforts are just worthless. Then what is the point keeping something in my heart and not sharing it to my God? I dont understand.. I

    have heard prayer changes God’s mind, just like when Moses pleaded God to spare the people when they created a golden calf when he was up on the mountain with God. Anyone would care to comment and correct me if I am not looking at this in the right way?

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