I continue to believe that the hardest bits of the Bible are not the bits we don’t understand but the bits we do!
Don’t get me wrong, there are, I’ll be honest, bits of the Bible I find very hard to understand (How could my loving Father God order, what can only be called, genocide? (e.g. 1 Sam 15:3) being the hardest!). But there are answers to questions like that, and you can go and look them up and learn them.
No, the hardest parts of the Bible are the bits I do understand. Take this passage:
“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.” Matt 6:3-4
I’m sorry, but giving (money, time or anything else) in secret is not easy for mere mortals like myself. I always like someone to know, don’t you?
If I do something good for someone, I may not tell anyone, but I do, secretly, hope I get found out! How about you? If I find out that someone is struggling financially and I give them money – my mouth would be firmly closed – but I kind of wish someone else could see how generous I’ve been. Or how hard I’ve worked – or whatever. But Jesus says we should be content to keep it secret.
The truth is this verse forces us to ask a very simple question. A question that we all must face if we are to claim any reality in our faith. Is my belief in God real enough to motive me to giving or prayer or kindness without the need to receive ‘applause’ from someone else?
It’s actually a question about how real and deep our relationship with God is. If I’m away and send some flowers to my wife, do I need to tell anyone? No, because I can picture her reaction and pleasure, even while I’m not there. And I can anticipate her reaction when I return. That is my reward, and it is more than enough without telling anyone else (At this point, if my wife is reading this, she will probably be wondering why I don’t do it a bit more often then! Sorry! Love you!!).
If I give flowers to my wife to impress other people, well then they aren’t really a gift for her at all, are they? In the same way, whatever I do to attract the applause and approval of the world isn’t really done for God at all, and, as Jesus makes clear, has no validity in our Father’s eyes. Instead, it is those things I do that are genuinely motivated by my desire to please God that will truly delight Him – and that is my reward.
But please don’t worry if your answer to that question left you feeling a bit depressed – I’m not sure I came out of it too well either. Let’s talk to God about it – he’s very nice you know!
God bless you all,
(This was my article in the October magazine which I neglected to put on the blog! Sorry it’s late!)