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  • Writer's pictureAsk Pastor Adrienne

Giving in Secret


Dear Pastor,

Some people in my church want their generous donations announced. I find this disgusting.


Jesus did too.

In the red-letters of our Bible (Christ’s words in direct quotes), he said this: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:1-4, NASB.) He was addressing the idea of serving the poor, but in fact, Jesus touched on all of our righteous acts in verse one and asked us to be quiet about them. Rewards come to those who bless in secret.

Why does God support these kinds of secrets? When we act in secret, God gets the credit. Human beings are often prone to pride, arrogance, condescension and power-trips; unable to handle the accolades that come with giving, Christian or non. The idea that we would take credit at all is laughable, by the way, since everything we have belongs to God (Psalm 50) and it is only from his abundant generosity he has given it to us in the first place (James 1:17.)

Pastors get stuck between a rock and a hard place on these giving issues, by the way, since the organized church is often a political landscape: Let’s say a family trust repaves the church parking lot, and the pastor wants to encourage other members of the flock to give also. He knows only too well that roughly 17% of his congregation even tithe, so there are needed repairs and financial concerns which regularly exceed the weekly plates. Perhaps a mention of the gift will trigger an avalanche of financial copy-cats? But applause for the parking-pavers will draw attention to the givers. He may violate Jesus’ wisdom of Matthew six. Yet if he doesn’t proclaim it, the family may be miffed that their donation wasn’t appreciated enough. Pastor decides, with permission from the family, to announce what they have done on the following Sunday. So all week thereafter, he overhears the scoffers that he’s playing favorites by pointing out the righteous works of a couple people. He couldn’t win in this situation.

I’ve seen this dynamic play out several times. There is only one way to help your church, your pastor and yourself when you give big gifts: get permission from church leaders then donate quietly yet with clear instruction to remain anonymous. God gets the glory, Pastor isn’t stuck in the middle and you get to send treasure to heaven which paves your front porch in gold bars. Requiring attention for generosity should give us pause regarding motivation. It could be a puffed-up, carnal ploy to take the glory from God and put it on us. God sees what we do in secret and rewards accordingly.

Once in a while someone makes my day by sending me a note or email about one of my columns they especially valued. The encouragement and empowerment I receive from this kind effort is indescribable. While God has called me to write (and so I do), these hours of labor are done in secret; in a quiet office in the middle of nowhere behind a dim computer screen and at the hands, too often, of an exhausted pastor. I sometimes doubt the impact my ministry is making. And then a giver, an anonymous person, sends me a few dollars in a card. “Loved the article this week. Get an ice-cream for yourself” they say, “or do something fun.” No signature or return address is included with these particular notes. On difficult days, they make me cry. Thank you, all of you, for reading, believing in me and keeping me inspired to search the Scriptures for deeper insights. Treasures, my friends, are waiting. Rewards are on their way.

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