“(But) take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

Matthew 6:1-4 there

[S]o here’s my question…“How can we let people know how easy it is to serve others, and keep it a secret that we serve others?” Jesus tells us to keep our good deeds to others secret so that we can reap our heavenly rewards rather than accolades from men. But when trying to promote service opportunities, or grow a team of volunteers, it is at times necessary to say, “Look what is being done here and you can be a part of it!”

This has been a tricky situation ever since starting Beautiful Mess, the ministry to feed and help the homeless. We needed to let people know when we needed volunteers and times when we had all the volunteers the space can handle. Knowing human nature, there are people who will volunteer when their friends volunteer also. But on our website, we wanted to show were are full without taking away the heavenly rewards of our volunteers, so we decided not to list names and say we are “covered” on that serving day. But when it came to promotion to get more volunteers for the cause, it becomes tricky. We are not a group of people who like to be on stage and say look what I am doing, but we do understand that there are times when we need to show others, “Look what we do, and you can do too.”

To find some direction, I asked the obvious question, “What did Jesus do?” In searching the Gospels, at first glance it seems that Jesus had the same tension. After Jesus cured a man of leprosy, Jesus told the man. “See that you don”t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them” (Matthew 8:4 NIV). Later, when Jesus drives a legion of demons from a man, Jesus told him, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19) Although it initially it looks as if Jesus is flip-flopping here, a closer look shows two very important similarities in the two statements.

The first point is that although Jesus says not to tell anyone, the man healed of leprosy is to show the priests what had been done for him. He is not to keep it a secret, Instead Jesus asks the man to engage others in the miracle by physically showing them what had happened. In the same way, instead of merely telling others what we are doing, we need to engage them in the act of service, getting them involved. (Thus, multiplying the effects of Joy).

The second point it that in both of Jesus’ statements, He doesn’t take credit for the miracle. He tells both men to show what God the Father has done; one by going to the Temple and offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God, and the other with telling him outright that the Lord has cast out the demons. The lesson for us is that God can do amazing things through us. He should always get the credit. It is when we take the credit that our heavenly blessing is replaced by worldly accolades. The Bible tells us “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13) but is also implies that we can do nothing without Christ. It is ok for us to tell others what God is accomplishing through us as long as the credit is given to the real Hero.

A funny side note to this story is that our best promotion is word of mouth. Friends tell friends, much like the people that Jesus healed could not keep quiet either. The people who were told to keep quite told their friends, and the man who was told to tell his family went to ten neighboring cities to tell everyone what the Lord had done. Bottom Line: Trust in the Lord and He will take care of your needs, promotional or otherwise.

It may seem like I am using this blog to work out my theological questions about serving and the tension that comes with those questions. Well, I am. And I figure that if I have issues that confuse me, others will as well. Maybe was can work together and dialogue an answer that works for all of us.

 

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