Can You Keep A Secret?

Gordon Venturella

I have noticed in many churches there is great boldness when it comes to certain biblical injunctions: One ought always to pray. You need to set aside time to pray and read your Bible, regardless. Everyone is a witness: share your faith. I’m thankful for these and other admonitions from the pulpit and elsewhere.

What is surprising to me is that the same boldness is often absent when it comes to the area of financial stewardship. In too many cases, we find rationalizations that we would not accept when it comes to other biblical principles.

I’ve heard the following statement, or something like it, in many churches:

Giving is a private matter between you and God…

The “secret” verse (the only stewardship verse many have memorized) that is used to justify this is found in Matthew 6:3: “Do not let your left hand know what the right hand is doing.” Viewed in context, it’s clear that Jesus is talking about the subject of benevolence giving (don’t embarrass others) and impure motivation in giving.

Jesus immediately points out that the same temptation (selfish motives) can apply to prayer. Specifically public prayer. Specifically long public prayers. To be consistent, those who hold to a “giving is private” view must also hold to a private in-your-closet-only prayer view. After all, Jesus clearly says, “When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly (Matthew 6:6 TNLT).” I hear public out-from-behind the door prayers in just about every church service I’m in, and some of them are pretty long.

Just about any public ministry or teaching can be corrupted by self-aggrandizement. Especially public testimonies of financial generosity.

From Moses (Exodus 35) to David (1 Chronicles 29) to Jesus—who named the widow’s offering (a mite) and listened to the amount of Zacchaeus’s restitution (half his wealth/four times the amount he embezzled)—to Barnabus to Paul, giving made public is an encouragement to others when it’s done at the right time, for the right cause and with the right motivation.

Whether it’s prayer, financial stewardship, witnessing or worshipping, we learn best by example. And to teach by example we have to talk to others—sometimes in public.

Can you keep a secret? Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees—beware of their hypocrisy. The time is coming when everything will be revealed; all that is secret will be made public (Luke 12:2).