A Reflection on Our Acts and Motives

"...so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you" - Mat 6:4 ESV.

We all do good things for different reasons. Some are motivated by love, others by prestige. Some may do things out of pure charity while others may do them like an investment with a future return. In doing what we do, our motive will dictate how we do them. Those who want affirmation and recognition for what they do will choose to do them publicly and with all the press releases. They will maximize media exposure and will do it in the most crowded places for maximum witness count. Others who would rather simply feel good knowing that they have done well without other people telling them so will rather do things anonymously or with as little fanfare as possible. Then there is also the possibility that whatever you do to help others or to contribute to the overall good, some ill-informed or malicious person will always find fault or ascribe evil motives to what you do. This is another reason to go low-profile in doing good for some.

The bible today reminds us that indeed there is virtue in doing good things in "secret" which means without fanfare, without the press release or without announcing to the whole world how good a person we are. As mentioned earlier, despite the good thing that you do, someone is bound to put a dampener on your accomplishment and if you're the type who is sensitive to people's opinion, a negative one may just discourage you from future good works. This is where the right motive can help. A person with the right motive for doing things need not worry about whether people would approve or not. For surely he knows that God would approve. This is of course assuming that you believe in God in the first place. In fact this belief is the best weapon against seeking affirmation from people for the things that we do. This belief will substitute God's own opinion and recognition which is worth more than people's opinion and recognition.

Additionally, today's verse assures us of this: that the Lord will reward those who do good things in secret or even if no one knows about it. This is such a good promise because it's unavoidable that there will always be someone out there who would resent what we do, perhaps partly due to envy or malice. The fact that God would reward us in secret for that which we do with the right motive will allow us the last laugh when someone tries to minimize or trivialize our accomplishment. It's like hearing a critic say to a writer that his novel is trash and then the novel receives a Pulitzer. The writer has the last laugh.

Of course a straight motive isn't a guarantee for the divine reward. It is equally important that the thing that we do is the biblical thing. For instance, not everything done in the name of love is actually biblical. Nor every act of helping for one can actually help a felon escape the law. But once we have sorted out our act and our motive and have made sure they are both beyond reproach, we can free ourselves of the burden of justifying our words and actions to people. All we need is to wait upon the Lord to affirm us and we can be sure that His affirmation will be abundantly sufficient.

(Photo credit: Laslo Antal)