Alfred Nobel invented the detonator in 1863 and the blasting cap 2 years later. Then, in 1867 he invented dynamite—something he hoped would revolutionize the mining and construction industries. It certainly did that, but dynamite also became the basis of munitions for a century, with variations of it used in wars even today. Nobel would likely be saddened to know that something he intended for good has been used to cause great destruction.
Similarly, if we start to make a lot of noise about the good stuff we’ve done, it can also lead to some destruction. Sure, it’s tempting to believe that letting others know about the good we’ve done is beneficial. After all, it’s nice to hear a positive story of charity amid all the bad news that comes our way. And perhaps our generosity will spur others to follow in our footsteps. Right?
So why did Jesus teach that we should not do works of charity in public, but in secret instead where only God can see? I think the answer has something to do with self-idolatry. Self-idolatry, that sin of lifting ourselves up for others to admire and even to worship, is like dynamite. No matter how good our intentions might be, engaging in self-idolatry will bring about bad results. Our bent as human beings to rebel against God ensures a path of destruction. It’s interesting to note that the very first command God gave to Israel was to worship Him alone (Exodus 20:3). This wasn’t only for His sake, but for our well-being!
Jesus calls us to humbly do good things—as if our left hand doesn’t know what our right is doing (Matthew 6:3). This honors God, allows us to receive His blessing (Matthew 6:4), and keeps us from the destructive path of self-idolatry.
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Luke 7:36–8:3
Read Acts 5:1-11 for a tragic story from the early church about a couple who failed to give to God and others unselfishly.
Can you think of other reasons why Jesus so strongly warned us not to share our good works in public? How can you become content with giving in secret as Jesus instructed?