Doing for others is a worthy way to observe Lent, but don't wait around for thanks.
Posted in , Feb 22, 2012
“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.” Matthew 6:2–3
One year, as my special project during the season of Lent, I decided to do a secret kind act each day.
Selecting a small kindness was the easy part. First, I sneakily did chores that were the responsibilities of others in the family—laundry, dishes, garbage. Then I waited for them to notice and rejoice.
Instead, my husband and children hurried along with their day and didn’t realize someone had lightened their load. I dropped hints in conversation, leaned conspicuously against the empty dishwasher, longed for some bit of acknowledgement.
Even if I never revealed myself as the benefactor, I wanted them to notice that someone had given them a gift.
Next, I designed small acts of generosity for people outside my family. I tucked an envelope with some cash into the mailbox of a church member going through financial need. When the phone rang and it was a particularly needy acquaintance, I coached myself to give a generous amount of my time listening and supporting without jumping in to talk about my own problems.
Each well-intentioned act of love was exhilarating to plan and implement. But keeping it secret was a painful struggle. My selfish nature—the part of me that hungers for human approval—clamored for acknowledgement that I’d gone above and beyond.
No wonder Jesus warned us of that tendency. If we feed that hunger, we become as obnoxious as a hypocrite announcing His donations with a trumpet.
I want to keep working on the “sleight of hand” that Jesus recommends: giving so naturally that I don’t even notice myself doing it. Trusting Him to use the small gifts, so I don’t have to go back and check whether people appreciated them. Receiving God’s love and acceptance so fully that He shrinks my craving for human approval and recognition.
Faith Step: Plan and implement a secret act of kindness for someone.
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