When No One is Watching

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 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. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-4

As a Campus Minister at Furman University, I would regularly meet students for breakfast at Chick-fil-A. It was a great place to grab a chicken biscuit and talk about life.

One morning while I was meeting with a student named Bowman, a homeless man walked up beside our table. I did my best to ignore him, hoping that he would get the message and walk away. The man wasn’t good at picking up non-verbal signals. He casually interrupted our conversation and let us know that he was homeless and hungry.

I was in a pickle. I wasn’t sure what to say. As a human being, I just wanted him to go away and I wanted to keep my money in my wallet. As a minister I knew had to do something. Eureka! What a great opportunity to show off in front of Bowman. I said, “sir, I’d be delighted to buy you breakfast. I’m so sorry to hear about your trouble. Bowman, would you excuse me while I help out a brother in need.”

I walked the man up to the counter to place his order. I made sure the cashier (and others) knew that I was buying this homeless man a meal. I said, “how about a breakfast combo.” He liked that idea. I did too. After all, my credibility as a minister was shooting through the roof.

Bowman was sure to notice the depth of my generosity. I wasn’t simply going to buy this man a biscuit. No, he’d get Hash Rounds and a drink too. Oddly enough, the man wasn’t all that grateful and asked for lunch money as well.

I sat back down to continue my conversation with Bowman. I was so proud. I’d just earned an A + in Christianity, ministry, and credibility—at least in my own eyes. The only problem is that “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

There are two parts to everything we do—the form (what we do) and the motive (why we do it). When we do the right thing for the wrong reason it’s wrong. When we do the wrong thing for the right reason, that’s wrong too. Doing the right thing for the right reason is a difficult task for even the most mature Christians.

Rev. Steve Brown provides just such and example in the life of Mr. Billy Graham. “One time Mr. and Mrs. Billy Graham were in church together, and Mr. Graham, by mistake, put a twenty-dollar bill in the collection plate when he meant to give a ten. He reached for the twenty-dollar bill, and Mrs. Graham slapped his hand. ‘I meant,’ he whispered, ‘to put a ten-dollar bill in the offering.’ ‘In God’s eyes,’ Mrs. Graham quietly assured him, ‘it’s a ten.’”

You’ll never live for God out of gratitude for Him until you understand how Christ lived for you and gave His life for you.

When you begin to catch a glimpse of just how loved you are in Christ, it will change you from the inside out. You’ll begin to count it as a privilege to live for Him whether anyone sees you or not.

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