Should My Giving be a Secret?

by John Richardson  |  February 5, 2015

How are we supposed to handle the fact that Jesus told us to keep our giving secret? 

For some of you, the answer to that question is quick and simple.  We keep our giving private.  Don’t tell the neighbors.  Don’t inform the kids.  And never make a scene when you’re being generous.

That sounds – and feels – right doesn’t it?

This world is not about our personal accomplishments and there is something special about the secrets that we share with God.  We need to make sure that we have our motives in line when we initiate the “acts of righteousness” that Jesus discusses in Matthew 6.  As we give, fast and pray, we should do these things privately with no fanfare.

End of discussion??

I’m not so sure that the discussion ends at that point.

In fact, there are a few prominent Christian leaders that have publicly shared their stories of sacrificial giving.  Francis Chan openly talks about the way that God pricked his heart with love for the people of Africa and then slowly started calling him to give away more and more of his salary.  Eventually, Chan notes that God asked him to give away millions of dollars.  For a seemingly humble guy, this “confession” seems surprising.

Another admired Christian leader – Eugene Cho – has just published a book called Overrated.  In the firstEugene Cho chapter, Cho details the way that God asked his family to give away their entire salary for a year ($68,000).  As a result of this pull toward generosity, they ended up subletting their house for a couple of months and living on the couches of friends.  Why would he disclose that to the world?

I know what some of you are thinking.  “Francis Chan and Eugene Cho have ulterior motives.  They have to tell their stories if they want to sell books.  They decided to trample this teaching of Jesus underfoot so that they could benefit from the short-term pleasures of this world.”  You may have even jumped back to Jesus’s comments on secret giving… “they have received their reward in full.

I personally have no way of knowing whether or not they've done that.  But, what if something else is at play here?  What if we have overblown this statement from Jesus?  After all, we tend to do that with God-statements.  We’re good at following in the footsteps of the Pharisees. 

You probably remember what the Pharisees (and others like them) did with God-statements about working on the Sabbath.  They eventually established 39 categories of activities that were forbidden.  No planting, reaping, writing, erasing, sorting, tying, untying, igniting a fire, extinguishing a fire, or walking too far.  Seriously.  They took what God intended for our good and crafted it into a millstone around believers’ necks.  What if we’re doing the same thing with Jesus’s teachings on secrecy?  What if we’ve thought of it out of context and blown it out of proportion?

Maybe we should look at this another way.  Think about the generosity of Jesus.  We all know that Jesus had the right motives in His giving, so let’s take a broader look at His generosity.

Jesus certainly did numerous things in secret with the Father.  He pushed away from the crowds and intentionally made time to be alone with the Father.  But, His acts ofIsaiah 42:6-7 righteousness weren’t always so secretive.  He prayed publicly on several occasions (John 17, Matthew 11:25, Luke 23:34) and told people what He prayed about at other times (Matthew 6:9, Luke 22:32).  Clearly, we don’t expect that Jesus only wants us to pray secretively.

Apparently, Jesus also told people about His fasting experiences.  At some point, Jesus had to let the disciples know about His period of fasting before He was tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:2).  He told them the length of His fast – 40 days – and that He was hungry when He was being tempted.  Why would He tell us to keep our fasting a secret and then run His mouth about His own times of fasting?  It seems like there may be more at play than we sometimes acknowledge.

Jesus also performed acts of generosity in front of crowds.  He healed people (even on the Sabbath!); He told us to “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven;” He fed thousands of people (on multiple occasions); He apparently paid Peter’s temple tax (Matthew 17:27) and He sacrificially gave His own life while multitudes gazed on His remarkable gift.  I hope He didn’t receive His reward in full for giving His life in front of others!

Our giving is never intended to bolster our pride or bring us glory.  Our giving is an act of reverent worship.  And, apparently, if your generosity can be shared in a humble way, which causes others to glorify God, your story becomes a kingdom story.  It advances God’s agenda in this world.

Here’s the bottom line:  Enjoy secrets with Jesus, and later, be willing to share them with the world as He prompts you. (Tweet that.)

Do you have a story of generosity that could bring God glory?  Share it with us in the comments.  Or share it with someone close to you…to help them see God’s generosity in a fresh, new way.

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My wife and I just completed Baby Step 3 in the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace Program and I was asked to do the intro to the offering at church...I shared the good news with the church and told the church how my wife Renee' were celebrating at Texas Road House Restaurant and how now we can slip each a $100 into our wallets to bless that person God puts on our hearts. Well that night God put on my heart to give away those 2 crisp $100 bills during my intro in church on Sunday. The church was elated and the two woman I just got layed off for the second time in a matter of months and the other a struggling single were both deeply touched and the first thing I shared when I handed them the money that it wasn't that $100 was going to dramatically change their lives but they felt touched and blessed by God Himself. Thank your for that article. When I got home from church and shared with my nonchurch going daughter what wonderful thing we had just done in a nonjudgmental way she said I thought you were suppose to give in secret and I said good point Emma but with discernment there are time to shout it from the roof tops sort to speak. Hey thanks for an opportunity to share. Use this as you wish. Brian
Brian M. Lacombe
March 2, 2015 - 06:03:17 AM
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