It was a gorgeous July weekend. My husband and I took advantage of full moon evenings by going out for leisurely walks. Friday night we sat on a park bench and enjoyed the moon rising out from behind a cloud and into another. On Saturday evening we sauntered along the Potomac to our town’s main street for dinner al fresco; Sunday night our stroll took us through two peaceful parks along the river. We crossed paths with friends on two of the nights and enjoyed lively conversations. It was a weekend where I felt I was living the mystique of “summertime and the livin’ is easy”. A taste of Heaven.
On Saturday our walk home passed through our city’s popular waterfront. There is an open public space flanked by restaurants and docks for tour boats, dinner boats and private yachts. During the summer, street performers set up with their buckets or open instrument cases in front of them, hoping to be rewarded by tourists and local residents.
A trio reminiscent of Motown situated themselves in front of stores on the main street across from where we ate our dinner. We recognized them as the same earnest group we’ve enjoyed for the past couple of summers. An older gentleman sets up every year on a prime corner where most pedestrians pass to get to the waterfront. He plays his music on glasses filled with different levels of water – a glass xylophone. Delightful. He often shares his space with an opera singing couple who take turns carrying their active daughter on their shoulders. As we entered dockside there was a caricature portrait artist, a contortionist (new to us and not our cup of tea) and a string quartet. The string quartet got our attention. They were young adults playing beautiful baroque music. Their obvious hours of practice and the ambiance they added to the beautiful night air was intoxicating.
One young woman went up to drop money into the slot in the lid of their bucket and when she returned to her friends I overheard her say, “I was tempted to leave it sticking out so they could see how much I gave them”. There’s a common temptation! We so often want credit for our giving. The photo above this post shows a man showing appreciation to the performer. In contrast, when we want recognition for our giving we’re turning the appreciation back toward us. We’re apt to miss out on the real reward of giving. We get stuck in a tit for tat mentality; a motivation diminishing the joy of being unconditionally, generously, kind and affirming. A joy that is a reward in itself.
“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving maybe in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:3-4
How is the reward of glorifying God with our giving different than what we receive when we glorify ourselves? When we glorify God, we know our impact on others is a rich part in God’s larger story – with eternal purposes. When we glorify ourselves, we know our impact on others is on behalf of our small story – with fleeting personal fulfillment.
Although God instructs us to be thankful and glorify Him rather than ourselves, His purposes in those admonitions are, ironically, for our ultimate good! Thankfulness brings us lasting peace. Accolades don’t do that. Appreciation of the opportunity to give overcomes our unsatisfying motivations. Gratitude allows God to use us in His larger story. Christ’s story is one of redemption and grace and unending love — a story worth having a role in!
God’s story multiplies the impact of each dollar dropped in the buckets we pass in our life and the buckets we hold out in front of us.
“…He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6
The Lord searches “the heart and examine(s) the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct”… Jeremiah 17:10
Jesus does reward us for our faith and our conduct but “remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.” Acts 30:25 Like the mystique of summer, giving without recognition is a mysterious taste of Heaven. It’s the goodness of a secret shared with your Savior; a delight given to the children of God.