November 16

Our Secret Works

“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…when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you…when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:3-4, 6, 17-18)

I am in the process of deciding what gifts to send to my relatives for Hanukkah and Christmas this year. Presents for my four great nephews and great niece are purchased. However, gifts for my siblings and nephews are harder to choose, like those for spouses and parents. However, I think my biggest challenge is not material but spiritual since my family members do not share my biblical faith in Jesus Christ, and my desire to celebrate his greatest miracle, the incarnation. Christmas is one time when I especially celebrate the sweet fellowship and transformative power of Christ that infuses my life with hope and joy. However, it helps to remember that we have the opportunity to celebrate Christ’s perfect, intercessory life at any time, by his gospel invitation (Matthew 11:28-30). 

We often forget those and that which is invisible, but it should not be so with God. “Pray to thy Father, which is in secret; who is invisible; not to be seen with the eyes of the body, but to be approached with a true heart, in faith and fear, through his Son Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man; and who is the image of the invisible God, and in whom he is pleased to manifest himself to his people.” (1)  The verses in Matthew 6 encourage us to make that which is visible invisible—our acts of giving, praying and fasting. When we give, pray, and fast we are to do so with complete guilelessness and sincerity. As I picture myself or others doing this, I think of a baby, about six months old asleep on his parent’s shoulder. The baby is completely unaware of his father but is utterly dependent upon his loving protection and care. We are to be like a baby, assuming the Father’s deep love as we rest in him, and quietly, almost unperceptively give, pray, and fast. 

In our delight and reliance on Jesus, John Gill offers additional help on fasting. “But thou, when thou fasts, Christ allows of fasting, but what is of a quite different kind from that of the Jews; which lay not in an outward abstinence from food, and other conveniences of life, and refreshments of nature; but in an abstinence from sin, in acknowledgment and confession of it; and in the exercise of faith and hope in God, as a God pardoning iniquity, transgression and sin; wherefore cheerfulness, and a free use of the creatures, without an abuse of them, best became such persons.” (2) 

Today I think I’ll back up to Thanksgiving now, remembering all the blessings of our Christian family in our fellowship with Jesus, and fast from Christmas and materialism. Give, pray, and fast —in secret with a heart leaning on Christ, quietly, softly, and repentantly.

(1) JohnGill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Matthew 6:6, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-6.html

(2) Ibid (Matthew 6:16-18)

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