Jesus said, “Whenever you fast, don’t be like the hypocrites who put on a gloomy expression, for they neglect their facial appearance so that people will realize they are fasting. For I am telling you for a fact, they have already received their reward.”
— Matthew 6:16 (USC)
Reward! We are all motivated by reward. Sometimes that reward is recognition and at other times it’s something more tangible. But we all operate on reward.
What is rewarded there is more of. So, in the Christian economy of things, the rewards for obedience must come from the Father and nowhere else – otherwise we are duped; we would only be fooling ourselves with a lie. Our church cannot recognise us publically and nor can anyone privately, if we are to experience the recognition of the Lord.
This is not to say we ought to reject recognition when it comes. It would be unloving to do such a thing. We are to be gracious. But neither are we to seek recognition.
If we get away without being recognised, all the better, for God stands the chance of communicating his pleasure to us in the secret way. No recognition is better!
Indeed, we can go so far as to say, we are won, in a solitary moment, to the winsome thrill of knowing him through his recognition.
If we are intent on being beset by the Spirit of God – and no Christian should want to prefer anything else – we will quickly learn the power in keeping secrets: the variety God approves of, not the other kind!
Doing wonderful things for the Lord’s pleasure alone is the profundity of wisdom.
And the smaller the deed done in secret – and the more the deed is suggested by the Spirit – the better the obedience. And to think nothing of it as we go on to the next thing; these are all principles with which Jesus is getting to the heart of.
If we are fasting – which would be to obey the Spirit’s leading for the purposes of spiritual challenge, growth, and prayer – we are doing the whole activity as one of worship.
We ought to go out of our way to ensure our secret worship remains sacred, but, where the Lord wills it, we may be required to share. Only the Spirit can confirm it by our placement in a situation where to not share would be unloving.
At the end of the day, we have our existential experience through which God can confirm the blessedness (or otherwise) of an activity. The blessings of God in recognition of the good works we do are unmistakable. And when these are enjoyed, loath are we to embellish them, but, instead, to partake of them as would be obedient, which is to thank the Lord and praise his holy name.
There is no reward or recognition better than God’s. Where our hearts are right we are intimate with God, and, his pleasure, our Lord loves to communicate.
QUESTIONS in REVIEW:
1. Think of a time when you did something noble. What was the felt experience like having done it (for the right reasons, i.e. not for your own gratification)?
2. Think of the myriad little things that you could do for God. How might another person be blessed in even the smallest way by you?
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.
Note: USC version is Under the Southern Cross, The New Testament in Australian English (2014). This translation was painstakingly developed by Dr. Richard Moore, a NT Greek scholar, over nearly thirty years.