As I wrote last week, spiritual disciplines can be powerful tools to help us grow in our relationship with Christ. One of the forgotten disciplines is secrecy. Secrecy can be a “secret” weapon in our spiritual growth. The discipline of secrecy is the practice of abstaining from causing our good deeds and qualities to be known.
I can think of two primary reasons we should practice secrecy:
1. We have a sincerity problem.
We are tempted to do, serve, and give out of what we can gain, rather than what we can give. But if we do good things anonymously, or secretly, we will do them for the proper reason, and we will gain the proper reward. Jesus understood our propensity towards self-promotion. He said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). He went on to instruct us to be careful about why we do “good” deeds. In his discussion of fasting, Jesus tells us to not look gloomy, bringing attention to our “sacrifice” of fasting. If we do things to be seen by others, we have already received our reward (which is other’s recognition). In other words, if we only do good things to be seen and recognized by others, we will receive a reward… but it is a fleeting, earthly reward of other’s approval, NOT the eternal reward of God’s approval.
2. We have a security problem.
Let’s face it, many of us are approval addicts. We desperately crave the approval of others. We want others to like us, and approve of us. Unfortunately, many of us base our security on others’ approval. The problem with this is that our security is up and down…one minute we’re liked, popular and, therefore “secure.” The next minute someone doesn’t like me, or approve of me, I am insecure. The Apostle Paul understood this and declared, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). May we never “love the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (John 12:43).
When we practice secrecy, we seek the proper recognition. We seek God’s approval, not others. And it sets us free from our sincerity and security problems.
As Dallas Willard stated, "In the discipline of secrecy… we abstain from causing our good deeds and qualities to be known. We may even take steps to prevent them from being known… We learn to love to be unknown and even to accept misunderstanding without the loss of our peace, joy, or purpose… We allow [God] to decide when our deeds will be known and when our light will be noticed… And that love and humility encourages us to see our associates in the best possible light, even to the point of our hoping they will do better and appear better than us.”
In conclusion, I want to list a few ways we can practice the self discipline of secrecy.
Pay for someone’s meal anonymously.
Give someone cash in an unmarked envelope to meet a need, or just encourage
Provide an anonymous scholarship for someone (for example, a student going to camp or a mission trip)
Give an anonymous donation to the church or a charity
Don’t say something good about yourself. When the opportunity arises for you to brag on yourself, don’t say it! Instead, brag on others.
Pull for someone you’re in competition with.
Serve anonymously without others knowing “who you are” or your status in life
Serve…and don’t post about it on social media