Wednesday, October 19, 2011

the secret giver

In Matthew 6:2-4 Jesus describes a type of giving that is known only to the Father, a giving so unselfconscious that our left hand does not know what our right hand is doing. The idea of giving unconsciously, without keeping a record and without expecting the praise of others is a lofty one and an appealing one, but it can be hard to find practical ways to live it out. All gift-giving requires a certain level of creativity, and none more so than the secret giving described by Jesus. With that in mind, here are a few creative ways we can give to others in secret.

First, some ways to bless those outside our home:

1.     Instead of writing a personal check to a person or organization, send an anonymous cashier’s check. If sending the check to a friend or family member, mail it from a different zip code than yours. You can even enlist the help of a friend in another state: mail them your envelope and ask them to send it. On a smaller scale, gift cards can easily be sent anonymously in the mail as well. You can include a typed note that acknowledges the purpose of the gift: “For your house payment this month”, “For your car repair”, etc. This helps the receiver know how intimately concerned God is that their specific needs be met.

2.     Some people have trouble accepting help with meals when they are going through a tough week. It’s hard to drop off a home-cooked meal anonymously, but you can leave an anonymous note on their door telling them to expect delivery of a meal from a local restaurant on a certain day and time (do as much recon as you can to pick a good window).

3.     Help anonymously with school-related expenses. Secretly pay for a child’s tuition to mother’s day out for a young mom who needs a break. Contact the grade school of a struggling family and ask to anonymously fill a child’s lunch account.

4.     Send a lawn service over to mow the yard of a single mom or ill friend. Or send maid service to clean their house.  Speak to the service provider to set up the arrangement and pre-pay. Then mail an anonymous note to the recipient giving them the name and number of the person to contact to schedule their appointment. The possibilities are endless here, depending on the size of your gift: house painting, window washing, home repairs could all be handled in a similar way.

5.     Send movie ticket vouchers and a restaurant gift card anonymously to a young couple who need a date night. Give symphony or theater tickets to a family that might not ever be able to afford to go. Think specifically about how a particular person or family could be blessed by your anonymous giving with a gift they would choose themselves if they had the money.

Now, what if there were ways to practice secret giving without spending money and without leaving our homes? We would be remiss if we only practiced secret giving toward those in our community. If charity begins at home, secret charity begins there as well. Parents, you are especially well-positioned to be secret givers, but the entire family can get in on the fun. Any time you are home alone is an opportunity to bless anonymously. Think creatively about how, and encourage your kids to do the same. Look for (but don’t be limited to) things that need to be done, but that often go unnoticed:

1.     Fold and put away someone else’s laundry, even if it’s not your job.

2.    Put fresh sheets on someone else's bed and hang fresh towels in the bathroom. Restock the toilet paper.

3.     Mow the lawn one weekday before the person responsible has a chance to do it.

4.     Unload the dishwasher or take out the trash, even if it’s not your turn.

5.     Organize a closet that everyone uses. Or organize the garage.

6.     Clean the baseboards or the air vents. Dust the ceiling fan blades. Clean all the toilets. No one will even notice that you did it. Which is exactly what makes it great.

Even in homes where gratitude is well-trained and properly displayed, most moms or dads have encountered the thought, “There are a thousand things I do that my family takes for granted.” What if, rather than resent this lack of perceptiveness, we viewed it as a means for secret gift-giving? What if moms and dads kept things clean and operating and paid for without resentment, recognizing that one day their children would look back as adults and say “You did that!”? Or even recognizing that their kids may never look back in gratitude, but that the Father who sees in secret has not overlooked a single selfless gift?

Public giving certainly has its place, but so does secret giving – both outside and inside the home. The real trick to secret giving is to keep no record – to give expecting nothing in return – not a name on a building, not a sense of indebtedness in the receiver, not a tax receipt, not even a thank-you note. One day all of our giving will be known – those we have blessed in secret will know the instrument of their blessing was us. Our recipients will look back and say “It was you!”

And isn’t that a picture of how God gives to us? For our God is a Secret Giver – He gave us Christ before we knew we needed him, a Secret Gift whose value will take an eternity to properly value. He gives us grace throughout our lives in large and small ways that we will not see clearly until Glory. On that day we will look back and say “It was you!” for a thousand graces. Secret giver, live in light of that truth today. Freely you have received. Freely give.

Do you have creative suggestions for secret giving? Leave a comment...


  1. When Craig was in his big knee brace and couldn't mow the lawn and pick the weeds our neighbors and their down the street secretly mowed our lawn and picked all the weeds for us. (I blogged about it: What a lesson for those kids - about doing acts of kindness just because there is a need and not expecting any sort of return. But they did get a return - I baked cookies for the whole family. :)

  2. Love this post! We were on our way from ATL to Va and stopped at cracker barrel to eat and someone anonymously paid for our meal (can you imagine! For a family of 8!!!). On our way back to ATL we stopped at another cracker barrel (my husband loves him some CB) in another state and it happened again! We were humbled and overwhelmed.
    Since then when it is one of our kids birthdays, we take them out to eat and let them pick the family they would like to pay for. Although we have to be careful they don't take pride in their giving. We tell them it's a gift from God, He's just allowing us to deliver it.

  3. As always, thanks for sharing this, Jen! I have always wanted to pay at the drive-thru for the person behind me. I've never had the guts to do it - maybe now I will go through with it!

    Also, when I was gigantically pregnant and days away from giving birth for the first time, two of my precious friends put together a care package for me. It had all the stuff I would wish for in the hospital, and afterward - stuff it wouldn't have occurred to me to pack! Their gift and thoughtfulness were a tremendous blessing. I can't wait to do that for someone else!