Give secretly

The novel on the high school library shelf looked fat and juicy with words. I checked it out, gulped it down, found its prequel and blazed my way through that novel as well – stunned with the simple concept on which the author, Lloyd C. Douglas, based his best selling pre-World War II books: “Magnificent Obsession” and “Dr. Hudson’s Secret Journal.”
In both books the characters refuse to talk openly with just anyone about the concept – it is too important to banter about lightly. In the “Secret Journal,” when Randolph the sculptor shares the concept with Dr. Hudson, he does so at night in a quiet, obscure place. Just between the two of them, he relates how he sat through a church service, astonished that pastor and parishioners seemed totally oblivious to the secret of gaining God’s blessing in their lives revealed in the mornings scriptural reading.
Following that sermon, Randolph tells Hudson that he tentatively tested the secret and realized the import on his own life of living by the guidelines he discovered in the Beatitudes:
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, 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 men. I tell you the truth, 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.” Matt.6:1-4 (NIV).
In both books, author Douglas shows how each main character learns to give sacrificially, thoughtfully – and secretly – to the needy they encounter. With each secret gift, each giver realizes that God subsequently blesses and enriches their lives and increases their ability to reach out and give again.
Not only does each benefactor in the books keep the giving a secret, each feels deprived of God’s promised blessing when a recipient fails to keep the covenanted contract to “receive, but not tell anyone.”
It is a concept that Jesus Christ followed as He healed the sick during his time on earth. Repeatedly, “Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone.” Mark 7:36 (NIV)
Of course, there is the pragmatic reason to not tell – others may come and demand the same good deed as if it were a right rather than a miraculous privilege and blessing to be the recipient of another’s generosity. But, more importantly to broadcast one’s ‘acts of righteousness’ truncates the blessing God wants to send our way.
The masses of evacuees following Hurricane Katrina offer us many opportunities to give, to do good – and to embrace the Christ mandated concept of doing so quietly, without fanfare or recognition.
Don’t settle for second best in the next few months as the Hurricane Katrina victims sort out their lives. Wait for the reward God wants to give you for having done something good. Work diligently to keep your good deeds a secret and covenant with all recipients that they likewise will not allow anyone else know what you have done.
Don’t settle for getting a pat on the back now, a certificate of appreciation or your name or picture in the paper now. Test out Christ’s promise that “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matt.6:1-4 (NIV).
Wait for the reward that God promises, it will bless you much more than a transitory recognition.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times.)