Three Secret Traits of a Christian
We live in a very attention-grabbing, self-promoting, “look at me” society. We witness this in professional sports almost every week as well as in the business world. We see it in everyday life with bright shades of hair color, graphic tattoos, and various facial piercings. It seems there is an increased drive to be seen and recognized.
We see self promotion in various public arenas such as: reality television shows devoted solely to a person or family, books and biographies written by people promoting their own lives, and now, more recently, social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, blogs) which people can detail their every decision and thought online. This has even passed over into parenting with the idea of “narcissistic” parenting, which occurs when a mom and/or dad raise children for the sole purpose of glorifying themselves or making themselves look good in the eyes of others. There seems to be a great desire in the world for what God calls the “praise of man.
With this in mind, Matthew 6 details three qualities that every Christian should practice secretly, meaning that we should be so good at them that no one knows we are doing them. God wants us to continually practice these things without seeking the praise or glory of man. Let’s take a look at them:
- Alms Giving (v.1-4)
This is not tithing or giving to the church. In fact, God commands everyone to tithe. Tithing has never been secret and a public example of tithing is a needed sight in every church. Alms giving refers to doing kind things for other people. For example, giving someone money in an unmarked envelope or possibly giving a gift to someone without saying whom it is from. My wife and I have been the recipients of many such gifts, and we have tried to do the same for others through the years. This is what is meant when Jesus says,
let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.”
God says we get more of a blessing when only He knows about it.
- Prayer (v.5-7)
We must remember Jesus was rebuking the religious crowd at the time. They enjoyed people seeing and hearing them pray. They enjoyed being “seen of men” doing their religious exercise of prayer. God desires that we would enter into our prayer “closet” and pray. This certainly does not mean we cannot pray out loud at a prayer meeting or in public where the expressed purpose is to pray as a group or to be heard by others. It simply means we should not pray to be heard of man, but rather to be heard of God. God promises more of a blessing when we pray in secret to Him.
- Fasting (v.16-18)
We are commanded to fast in verse 16, “when ye fast.” Fasting is doing without food for a certain time to devote yourself to prayer. It has been said that fasting puts an exclamation point on our prayers when they come to God. Fasting shows God that we really mean business. However, fasting is not enjoyable and is described as “a day for a man to afflict his soul” in Isaiah 58. God cautions us from revealing to others, whether by actions or words, that we are fasting. It is fine if those around us find out by other means, but we should try not to draw attention to ourselves by announcing it to everyone through words or actions. Again, we get more of a blessing when only God knows about it.
There are many things we must do publicly as good examples for the cause of Christ. But as we strive to serve God in public, let us be mindful of these three secret qualities we must possess to gain the blessing of God, more than the praise of man.