The challenge of anonymity

“Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 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 honored by men. I tell you the truth, 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.” (Matthew 6:1-4)

I want you to try an experiment this week. In the spirit of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6, do something anonymously for another person. Give a gift, send a note, do an act of service, or find some other way of blessing another person. But don’t tell anyone that you did it – not even your closest friend or family member.
As you do this experiment, pay attention to what is going on in your heart. If you are anything like me, you will have a hard time remaining anonymous. I find that when I give or serve others, I desire to be noticed, to be praised, to receive glory for every act of kindness. Think about it – how do you feel when you do something nice, something sacrificial, for another person and they do not acknowledge what you have done, let alone give you the thanks and praise you feel you deserve?

If you experience any of the same emotions I do, then let Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 serve as a warning. In the end, whose praise are you really seeking? Are you loving and serving others because you want to bring honor to Christ? Do you love and serve without feeling angry when you are not recognized for your service, or without desiring the praise of others? If you crave recognition and appreciation, then perhaps your motives are not as pure as you think they are. Perhaps you are really looking for glory for yourself, desiring that others would see you as a generous and loving person, instead of being content with the praise and reward that comes from God.

The answer, as always, is to believe the gospel more fully, to find your identity in being a beloved child of God, so that your craving for the praise of others becomes less and less, and your desire to honor Christ becomes greater and greater. As Christ transforms your heart, may you find yourself eagerly giving to others and serving those in need, without giving a second thought to whether or not you receive any glory or appreciation in return.

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