Our calling is not to hoard good deeds, not to pile them up and count them out like a miser his money. Rather, it’s to do good with liberality and generosity, and to leave the accounting to God, for he is the one who promises to remember every word, every deed, every prayer, every gift. We can and should be quick to forget and to entrust it all to him, for he is the one who keeps perfect records.
Legend tells of a humble old man who wished to do good to others, but not to receive their praise. So he wrote letters of blessing, epistles of encouragement, placed them in bottles, and set them afloat on the seas where, through the power of wind and wave, they went through the world, cheering many gloomy hearts, lifting many drooping hands, strengthening many weakened knees.
Like that old man, each of us can attest to the deceptive nature of our own hearts when it comes to doing good. Our hearts are so twisted and wicked that the good we do to others is sometimes actually designed to bring good to ourselves. We give of our money so others will tell of our generosity; we give of our time so others will give us honor; we invite people into our homes so they will brag of our posh possessions. The wise of this world learn to distrust their own hearts, their own motives, their own actions.
Jesus addressed this temptation in his day. He told of those who love to give generously to the Lord’s work, but to do so only with great fanfare, with great publicity, to the blast of loud trumpets. He told of others who love to pray, but only in public, only on street corners, only where they can be seen and honored by every passerby. To such people he said it is far better to give and to pray in secret, for then they will receive the blessings God dispenses in secret. But if they give and pray only to be seen and affirmed by the public, that fleeting, public affirmation is all the blessing they will receive now and in eternity.