I get excited to know we have a secret place with God. Feel free to journey through His secret place in the previous three blogs and discover all that is available to Christians as we abide and dwell in the secret place of heaven where we are citizens even though we are here on earth. In Matthew we see three things we get to do in secret and then our Father who is and sees in secret will reward us openly: Give, Pray, and Fast! I cannot emphasize enough how this should stir our spirits and invigorate us to revel in our relationship with God! Giving, praying, and fasting in secret is the outgrowth of our secret place experience so let’s finish our journey as we learn to live with Him continually.
GIVING! Matthew 6:1-4 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”
At first glance this doesn’t seem to be in reference to “giving” as much as it does to “doing” good deeds for people. But in the original language “charitable deeds” literally means “to give alms” or donations to people in need. Though we can and should offer help to people who are destitute, Jesus is speaking specifically of giving money to impoverished people. Every Christian should make this kind of anonymous giving part of life because it brings God’s favor.
It is pretty clear there is either no reward from our Father in heaven or He will reward us openly! It is one or the other, black or white, hot or cold, truth or lie, no reward or His reward. Christians can get “weird” when it comes to talking about getting things from God, or maybe it’s just me who gets “uncomfortable” because I feel just having Him as my “everything” is more than enough. And He is! However, since He says there is more, who am I to argue with Him? Shall I tell God, “No, please don’t reward me openly. It isn’t necessary! I would prefer you just go ahead and bless everybody else”? Refusing to receive what He wants to give us seems an act of futility so we might as well receive the “more” He has to offer and stop walking in false humility. If God says He is for us AND has things for us let’s position ourselves in Him and receive everything He gives.
Jesus is concerned about the motives of our heart and though we may not sound a trumpet to get glory from men, we still get our rewards today in the form of public thanks or tax write-offs when we give to people, charities or ministries. Occasionally we give money to others anonymously, but even then most people want to run it through a church, ministry, or charity to get their tax credit. This still equates to letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Instead we should grab hold and practice this truth of secrecy now because there will be a time when we don’t get tax benefits for giving and if we don’t give in secret now we will not give when all earthly benefits are removed. Will churches and ministries cease to exist when the government declares we can no longer claim charitable contributions on our taxes? Will we willingly give when there is no worldly benefit for us to do so? We can say “yes” now but the answer is more likely “no” if we aren’t practicing giving in simple obedience.
This alms giving is completely secret where no one knows except you and God and there is absolutely no worldly benefit or reward whatsoever. This reward from Father is only given if we bypass the earthly reward. Plain and simple! I have no clue what this reward looks like but one thing is certain; it is worth far more than any tax benefit, any good feeling we get watching people receive, and any accolades we could receive from man. What an exciting way to give, live, and love!
We should all be encouraged to pray about walking in this kind of giving. And the good news is we don’t need extra cash lying around to give secretly. Father already knows what He has given each of us and will lead accordingly. We need only go to the secret place with Him and as we look, listen, and learn, He will tell us who and how much to give. As we fulfill His Word, He will reward us openly. Oh, and no need to get all religious and tell me we should not focus on His reward but on Him and what He has already done. I get that! HOWEVER! When we live with Father in the secret place, we trust He has purified our motives and should expect to freely receive just as we freely give! He wants to bless His children and refusing Him and His rewards hurts!
PRAYING! Matthew 6:5-6 “And when you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
Before addressing this secret prayer let’s take a moment to discuss prayer in general. There are as many ways to pray as there are ways to converse in life. We have private, one on one, small and large group conversations, while some of us even talk to ourselves. So it is with prayer. There is private, one on one, small group, and corporate prayer. We can pray “in our head”, responsively, or all at the same time with different petitions. We can whisper, say, or shout our prayers. Corporate “out loud” prayer in which we encourage one another through agreement is just as important as praying in secret. Matthew 18:19 “If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.” It is difficult to agree without asking “out loud” in prayer. Of course, we can share our requests with another person and simply “ask” them to agree with us but why stop at sharing our needs in conversation when we can pray together with the Lord? What an important truth to grab hold of so that we do not abstain from public prayer thinking it is wrong if prayer attracts attention. This is false pride!
Bottom line: Jesus is not saying the only acceptable prayer is in secret but is emphasizing our secret place prayers and again addressing the motives of our hearts, of utmost importance to God. If our motives include being seen, heard, and show off our spirituality then any attention we get is our reward. But when our hearts are pure and righteous before God, we will pray and believe for more, with our motive to know and seek God along with His will and desires.
Again it would seem enough of a reward just to spend time with Father in His secret place but He says there is more, that He sees in secret and rewards us openly. It is what He does! Again, I do not know what this reward always looks like but we can be assured it comes in addition to the sweet communion we experience in the secret place. Now if you are a person who has never experienced the touch of God in secret prayer, put it on your “to do before you die” list. Put it as number one, do it, and never cross it off the list because it IS life! And the reward is something you don’t want to miss.
FASTING! Matthew 6:16-18 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
Fasting is abstaining from food for a specified time while seeking the Lord. It is not a subject we talk about much these days yet Jesus says “when” we fast not “if”. In other words, fasting is as much a part of our Christian lifestyle as giving and praying, having the freedom to engage in it on a regular basis. Instead, most people give excuses for not fasting such as having an illness or disease making fasting impossible, they get too weak and cannot perform at work if they fast, they think fasting is too legalistic, or they don’t believe it is necessary any more. Others just change it up a little and fast from television, sex, sweets, computers, caffeine, or some other enjoyment in life. Yet none of these excuse us from the privilege of fasting, specifically, abstaining from food, which Jesus is obviously referring to here. We wouldn’t need to anoint our head with oil or wash our face to hide the fact we are fasting if we were simply abstaining from our leisure activities or special appetites. Sacrificing our desires is not the same as sacrificing our needs in obedience to the Lord.
Fasting from food brings our bodies into submission while spending the extra time praying and seeking God in His secret place. We are tempted by many things in this world and fasting helps us resist. When Jesus fasted for forty days He said in Matthew 4:4 and Luke 4:4 “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Fasting from food gives opportunity to eat His Word and fill our spirits fully while refusing to eat food to fill our bodies. And once again, Jesus addresses our heart motives because some people were using fasts to garner attention by acting sad and weak while others were pretending to fast by making themselves look physically worn without actually abstaining from food. Fasting is an admirable spiritual practice but to parade it publicly to get respect and admiration from men is wrong and is all the reward we will receive. Father knows each of us along with our particular “needs” so if we trust Him He will direct us in our fasting lifestyle. Ask Him for His grace in fasting and get ready to receive His reward!
These scriptures are direct and even sound harsh but are good! The beautiful part is that giving, praying, and fasting in secret are simply an overflow from our time in the secret place with Father. We will never be the same when we allow God to work in us through these areas. In fact, we may never again look for the approval of men. Wouldn’t that make a difference in our churches?
I pray we are encouraged to meet with Father in His secret place where His goodness is laid up and we are rewarded. Listen to His words to us from Song of Solomon 2:14 “O My dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the cliff, let Me see your face, let Me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.” Those are words I want to hear over and over again from our God who is love! May our secret place experiences multiply and catapult us to new levels of faith! Let Him see and hear you!