You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others 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 others. Truly I tell you, 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.
Lets start off by reconciling these two scriptures. One scripture boldly proclaims, “…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” To summarize this scripture it could be paraphrased as “when people see you doing good works, then they glorify God. The logical conclusion is that the more good works people see done, the more they glorify God. This scripture certainly encourages public ministry. Your good works serve as public relations for God. The terminology of a “Town built on a hill” could easily be paraphrased as a ministry with a platform and influence. A ministry that cannot be hidden.
The second scripture tells us plainly, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.” This scripture appears to discourage public ministry opting for secret service. Actually, Jesus is building on the same point in the same sermon. One could summarize this passage as saying, “Make sure your motivation for good works is not your own public relations.” Love for God and love for others still needs to be the primary motivation not self promotion.
Notice Jesus assumed his followers were going to do good works. Therefore he instructs His followers that when they do good works there is no need to announce it. There’s no need to attempt to get credit from others for ones good works. God knows and the person served knows and that is all that really need to know. Jesus was clear. Good works are not the currency for recognition. If you want to be seen by God, then do it in secret. The more secret, the purer the motive, and the more God takes note and the more the He rewards.
Yet because of the previous passage we know that God wants his followers to have a platform. If there is no platform visible or a light on a stand in the dark, then larger groups of people will not see the hand of God at work through his people.
These two scriptures lay out a spiritual process that occurs in Spiritual formation, but also cuts across the survivalist mindset. First, a person starts serving privately and/or secretly. As they work privately in service to God a few things occur: 1) God uses service of people to purify their heart for service. 2) Their skills in serving and ministry are developed and refined. Everyone starts at the level of incompetence and grows from that point. 3) God allows their motives and skills to be tested. When this process is complete the Father pulls away the veil that has hidden this secret servant. He gives them a platform. Now everyone in the secret servant’s new exalted platform sees a picture of a right person, doing rights things, the right way, for the right reasons. The observers get to see a testimony of the heart of the Father.
There are two things about this process we humans don’t like, especially if we are still in survival mode. One, this process takes time. Most humans want to shoot to the top as fast as possible. That might include rising to the top of a corporation, making all-stars in recreation baseball, being first chair in high school band, or growing that ministry super big super fast. There is a race to the top, however most of the people who get to the top the fastest usually don’t stay there. I heard one preacher say it like this, “There are no microwaves in heaven, just crockpots.” The time of secret service appears to transform us and that’s the point. The survivalist instinct desires to rise to leader of the pack as fast as possible. Being the top dog ensures our survival.
Secondly, is God built this process into all of humanity. Humans didn’t feel the pressure of this before the fall into survivalism. Humanity was going to live forever. You know, “What’s the rush?” Yet because humanity fell under the curse of death and the curse of survival, everyone instinctively races against the clock. God is not in a hurry and there is no panic in heaven. No survival instinct there. God takes his time. He is excruciatingly patient. This process has been build into all of creation so you might as well embrace it.
You might as well understand the practical ramifications of this painful process. God graciously allows you to practice in secret. This saves us a lot of embarrassment and pain. God is gracious to us; this process is a gift. This process can be summarized in the word “preparation.”
No one sees preparation. A movie might take 2 hours to watch, but the production of that movie took three years. The reward of secret preparation is the movie itself, much less the success of it. People observe the results of high achievers, and they say, “Boy, they’re lucky.” They did not see the valedictorian studying for some exam on some lonely Friday night when everyone else was out playing. The Olympian receives the gold on the platform to the cheers of the crowd, but the crowd doesn’t see the hours of training, coaching and practice.
The crowd sees a happy functional family, while they don’t understand the effort it took to create that family dynamic. The crowd was not there before this couple was married, when they were single and they refused to date any loser that came along; when the selection process looked hopeless, and when the lonely weekends had no end in sight. They don’t see all the effort put into communication, working out problems, dealing with differences. Many people say, “They are so lucky to find a spouse like that.” Luck had nothing to do with it. If it is seen as a success in public, then it has been practiced long and hard in secret.
If you want to be seen… If you want to have influence… If you want a platform… then you must do it in secret. People are not going to see the light of success and be able to keep it until God says they are ready.
God is not going to pull back the curtain until you are the right person, doing the right things, the right way, with the right motive.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success he studies people who are hugely successful in life. People who are bigger than life due to their unprecedented success. Naturally, there are countless variables that lead to huge success. Yet one of the biggest variables is what Gladwell calls the 10,000 hour rule. Research confirms that people at this level of success are very rare. So rare they are tabulated as outliers. To personalize his research Gladwell presents the examples of professional athletes and musicians, the Beatles, Bill Gates and many other interesting things and people. Yet one common denominator among them all is they have practiced a minimum of 10,000 hours. When a person has prepared and practiced for 10,000 hours, then odds are they are prepared for their once in a lifetime opportunity.
To be seen, you must do it in secret. There are no short cuts. Short cuts become long detours. Embrace the process. Practice it with patience. Purify your motives. Develop your skills. Make the pain of the process worth it. This is how you embrace the Crazy Kingdom. This is how you will inherit a crazy reward.
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