Secrets are a tempting thing. We’re tempted to them whenever we feel embarrassed or ashamed. I know people who are so ashamed that the messed up their finances and hid it from their spouse so there wouldn’t be another fight. I know men who are ashamed of their pornographic addictions that they have kept hidden from everyone the extent of their depravity.
Secrets are a tool we run to when we don’t want to be confronted with the truth of our sin.
Since we normally run to secrecy when we are in sin, many Christians believe that secrets are never ok and work to be open about everything. I think there’s very good intentions behind this thought, but it can lead itself to disregarding certain commands to keep secrets. Wherever you land on the issue of secrets, I want to take some time today and talk about three areas where we can and should keep secrets.
These commands to keep secrecy are in Matthew 6 and are the direct application of Jesus commanding His followers to practice righteousness so that it will be seen by God and not by man.
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
The first way we’re told to make our righteousness seen before God and not man is in our giving (vs 1-4). Jesus tells us not to make public announcements about our giving so that others praise us, but instead make our giving to the needy a private and quiet affair.
As I reflected on this passage it occurred to me that there are two important point here. 1) We are to be giving of our money to the poor and needy. That’s the assumption at the basis of Jesus’s application. You are to give to those who need it! 2) We are to give secretly.
How do we make a priority of giving to the needy without our spouse knowing?
In my marriage we each have a discretionary budget of equal amounts every month. We can do whatever we like with it without asking for permission from the other person. This allows us a lot of freedom to make decisions, surprise each other with gifts, and enjoy the simple things of life without hurting our overall spending goals. One thought that’s come to my mind in thinking about this topic is what would it look like to spend some of that money on the poor and needy? I’ll be honest and say it’s a hard thought to think through. I prefer to think of that money as "my money." In my selfish, little heart those few dollars belong to me and not to God. And that revelation shows just how deep my sin is. I’ve carved away a little pile of money to selfishly splurge on me with no regard to God. How might my life look different if I thought of God first? How might yours?
The second way Jesus commands us to keep secrecy is in our prayers (vs. 5-15). Specifically, He says not to pray on the street corners and and in church where people will think highly of your skilled oratory. He also instructs us to keep our prayers short and to the point - using no empty words.
Our prayer is to be in secrecy. We’re instructed to go into our room, shut the door, and pray so only God can hear. I think the idea here is to be focused on humility. Prayer isn’t a chance to bust our your impressive theological terms and make those around you think you’ve mastered this spiritual discipline. It’s not a chance to impress others with how much you remember about their lives and thus make them think you’ve been praying for them all week.
No. Instead, prayer is a private matter between you and God. It’s a time for you to be weak and vulnerable before Him and express the truth of how sinful you are and how much you desperately need Him
Lastly, Jesus instructs us to keep our fasting a secret (vs. 16-18). Don’t go around boasting about how long your fasts are or walk around all gloomy letting everyone know how hard it is to go without food. Your fasting is a righteous act between you and God, but it’s only righteous if it stays between you and God. Therefore, Jesus commands us to wash up, make ourselves look presentable and let no one know that we are fasting.
Here again we see that the spiritual disciplines are not to be used to lift ourselves up, but to instead draw our broken and contrite souls closer to an all-mighty God. "When you fast" presumes you will fast, so when did you do it last? Why were you doing it? Did you let others know or keep it between you and God?
I would guess that for many of you reading this, like me, you can’t remember the last time you fasted. This discipline is one we’re called to in Christ, and we fail to live up to His call on our lives when we ignore it. Let us therefore strive to make fasting part of our lives once again. Let us draw closer to God in the secrecy and solitude of fasting.
Fasting in particular is something that’s challenging to keep private from your spouse. If you don’t eat at the family meal, your spouse will notice and will grow concerned. So it may be that you need to let them in on this, but the directive seems to be clear, keep the circle of those that know small so that you’ll be less tempted to boast.
For more thoughts on Fasting, check out these articles on Desiring God.
How are you doing in your walk with God? Do you focus on keeping your opportunities for boasting small? I hope you do. I hope you see that the only time it is acceptable to keep a secret from your spouse is when you are working diligently on your walk with God. I hope you strive to make your walk with God precious to you, by creating time in your life that you can rest content in the arms our your great God! I hope you strive to make Him your true love, and keep all distractions for that most holy relationship at bay so that you can give God the glory and honor due His name.