Have you ever performed an uncredited act of service for the Lord? I’m talking about a deed for which your name went totally without mention and you received no worldly credit whatsoever. If you have, then you can relate to a certain unnamed man of God who served as God’s voice to Eli, Israel’s High Priest.
1 Samuel 2:27-36 tells us this man of God went to Eli and opened his conversation with the words, “Thus says the Lord…” What follows are no less than ten verses that provide the details of the judgment that was soon to fall upon Eli, his two sons, and the rest of his lineage. Then, once God’s message is delivered, no mention is ever made again of the unnamed man of God.
The human race can be divided along many different classification lines, but let me mention two that we don’t normally consider: people who have to get credit for everything they do and people who don’t want any credit. Tell me, which camp do you think you are in? Perhaps the better question is, which camp would those who know you best place you in?
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs His followers to do their acts of Christian service in secret so that no one will know who did them (Matthew 6:1-4). As He puts it, “Don’t even let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Why? He explains: “If you do your acts of service in the audience of others, whatever earthly reward you receive from that audience will be the end of your reward. But if you do your acts of service in secret, God the Father will see them in secret and reward you with rewards that can only come from Him.”
Of course, we know that some acts of Christian service simply cannot be done in secret. For example, preaching a sermon to a congregation is by necessity a very public event. Christ’s point, however, gets to the core of the individual’s motivation for performing the act of service. Is the individual doing the act purely out of humble devotion to Christ? Or is he or she doing it as a way to impress any potential onlookers?
Similarly, Jesus follows up His instructions about performing acts of service in secret by also singing the praises of praying in secret (Matthew 6:5-15) and fasting in secret (Matthew 6:16-18). In both instances, He again promises that such activities done outside the public eye will be rewarded by the God who sees everything (Matthew 6:6, 18). Here again the issue involves motivation. Why are you praying? Why are you fasting? Are you trying to get ahead with men or with God? That’s the crux of the issue.
I once heard a preacher say, “I want to be real when it comes to serving Jesus.” Well, real doesn’t always receive the compliments. It doesn’t always make the headlines. It isn’t always mentioned in the church bulletin. Sometimes it’s a servant of God delivering a message from God and then fading into historical obscurity. Sometimes it’s praying all by yourself when no one can hear you but God. Sometimes it’s entering into a time of fasting without letting anyone else know that you are fasting. Whatever it is and wherever it is, real is you doing something for Jesus without expecting any worldly reward in return.
You say, “But Jesus, by way of the four gospels, certainly got worldly credit for all of His acts of service.” Did He? The closing verse of the gospel of John tells us that if everything that Jesus did had been written down, the world wouldn’t be able to contain the books that would be written about those acts. That tells me that more of Jesus’ deeds were lost to history than were preserved. Therefore, even in this area He has left us with the perfect example to follow. He didn’t have to have the earthly credit for every last act of service that He performed and neither should we.