“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:3-4
We are coming up on two very different and distinct holidays - Halloween and Thanksgiving. As I reflect on them both, I can’t help but ask which of these holidays are we more closely following?
In the Gospel of Matthew, there is talk of hypocrisy - that is, “to be seen by men." The Greek word for "hypocrite" originally meant “actor." First century actors wore masks. A hypocrite, then, is one who puts on a mask or a false face.
That reminds me of Halloween when we pretend to be someone or something we’re not. Oftentimes, though, we carry that over into our everyday lives - pretending to be someone or something we’re not.
When we wear a mask, this turns us, and other people, away from God. When visitors walk into our churches and see people who are only pretending to be Christians, when they see a pastor who is putting on a show or pandering to the crowd, when it’s more important to “look good” in church versus coming humbly before the Lord, this is troubling.
When people enter a church to see God and yet can’t see God because of the church, God reacts. Matthew 6:1 in “The Message” says: “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding."
There is, of course, a way to redeem ourselves. That is our second holiday coming up - Thanksgiving. Instead of trying to be someone or something we aren’t, let’s do our best for our God and those around us. As we give thanks for the blessings we receive, we are also called to help those around us in need.
In doing so, we should expect no credit for the good we do. If we give financial gifts, they are not to be made public. When we worship and praise our Lord, it should be done with a pure and humble heart.
Bottom line: Don’t pretend to be someone or something you aren’t and don’t make a production out of your faith. Silence the trumpets, cancel the parade, stop the desire to be noticed by the people around you.
Instead, stir up your desire to serve God and those around you. Do good things - just don’t do them to be noticed!
Happy Halloween and happy Thanksgiving!