It’s our 10th wedding anniversary and we’re sitting down to dinner at the fancy hotel where we plan to spend the next two days. The setting is beautiful, the menu looks irresistible, and our mobiles have been left behind in the room. And what makes it both a little strange and overwhelmingly special is that we have no idea who paid for it.
Without much power of deduction, we know it was someone from our church leaving an anonymous cash gift in the pigeon hole of the assistant minister, but we have no way of narrowing it down further. We have been the privileged recipients of a gift in secret.
We have also been on the other side, taking our kids on stealth adventures to deliver gifts of flowers or chocolate. It’s exciting and exhilarating, and profoundly counter-cultural, and yet it’s really nothing new.
In fact over 2000 years ago Jesus recommended it to his followers in Matthew 6 v 2 – 4, “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 honoured 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.”
Jesus isn’t suggesting that no one should ever know that we are giving to others. Giving publicly can raise the profile of a particular cause, strengthen a relationship with the recipient, encourage others to give, and also provide accountability. Jesus is however prescribing giving in secret as an antidote to our self-promotion. When no one can see us giving, it stops being about impressing others. There’s no room for hoping our JustGiving donation will be seen by old school friends or dropping hints to your secret Santa recipient so that they realise you are the excessively thoughtful gift giver. Secret giving keeps us out of the spotlight.
And even more importantly, it takes that spotlight and re-directs it firmly on to God. We returned from our mini-break with no one to thank for the blessing it had been, leaving us to give all of our thanks to God, as the ultimate provider of every gift. Generosity fuelled by God’s extravagant love illuminates that love for the recipient.
If that wasn’t enough, Jesus adds that our giving in secret is never really done in secret; God assures us that He sees and promises that He rewards.
It might be pushing a missionary up to their fundraising target while leaving no note, dropping off a pile of Easter eggs on your youth leader’s doorstep, or delivering some holiday gift vouchers through the letter box of a family going through a hard time. You’ll probably find it exciting. You’ll definitely find that God blesses those who bring glory to Him.
You can give anonymously with a Stewardship giving account. Find out more about it here.