Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
Do you ever read a scripture that has on steel-toed boots? One that steps on both feet?
For several months, one such scripture traipsed around after me. Remember Jesus’ instructions about doing good deeds? Some wanted to make sure they were seen when doing their good deeds. Jesus caricatured them as hypocrites with trumpeters—marshaling and announcing—so that all could see their “Alms Giving Annual Parade.” People actually did this. How often I don’t know, but these horn-tooters had the only reward they would get—the praise of men. Now-a-days if I honked my horn all the way to the church, other travelers would just think I was crazy.
Jesus gave an alternate path to follow when doing any good deeds. “[W]hen you give to the needy, don’t’ let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your giving may be in secret.” The bonus, “But then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:1-5).
“To be honored by men…to be honored by men…to be honored by men.” Jesus’ words washed and washed and cleansed and cleansed, speaking to me: keep quiet about good deeds. The more his words soaked in, the more I noticed the ways that I manage to get good deeds noticed. In order to best explain this I’ll tell you about a piddling money donation.
I walked into a store during the holiday season and the red-kettle bell-ringer stood at the entrance. I practice donating a dollar each time I enter stores over the season. Believe me, I don’t shop that often so the amount is measly by the time the New Year begins. The bell ringers usually smile and give a hearty thank you. I like that. Makes me feel good. Sainted and Santa-ish.
On one such giving spree, I had the folded bill in my hand and when I poked the money in the rectangular slot, someone leaving the store had just dropped in money from the other side and the bell ringer didn’t see my donation. And when she turned warm eyes toward me, I felt compelled to point to the red pot and say, “I just gave.”
Couldn’t let her think a miser had just passed by, now could I? And then I felt sick at my stomach as I walked through the store. I was embarrassed that Jesus saw that. Why couldn’t I have just smiled and wished her a good day? Let God see the gift, no matter how small the amount.
Since that time, the Lord has revealed to me other times that I mention my good deeds in casual conversation with others. When rattling off schedules and busyness, it’s easy to tell about a pot of soup, a card written, a visit made, a dollar dropped into a kettle.
I’m nearly through reading the compelling biography Rees Howells, Intercessor by Norman Grubb, originally published in the 1950s. The revised book encourages readers even today because of Mr. Howell’s strong prayers and his counting on the Lord to provide everything he needed from missionary funds to affirmations of his ministry.
I know life is a lesson-in-progress and as my friend Jan Tickner is fond of saying, “The Lord’s taking me on one more lap around Mount Sinai.” Amen, Jan. I’m right behind you panting and making my laps.
There’s no need to hand wave, shout or even subtly draw attention to my good deeds. Rather I should tell about Jesus who laid down his life saying, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32).
I’m learning that when I step back, Jesus steps forward.