There is a reward which comes from doing something because you know it is right and you know there just isn't anyone who needs to know what you have done. It is a deep-down sense of satisfaction with doing "right" or "good" without having to "account" for your actions to anyone other than yourself. The fact is - God sees those actions and he takes note of them, even when others don't see them. In the practice of the religious zealots of the day when Jesus was delivering this sermon, there was this custom of making a "big deal" of doing the "right thing". The gifts were brought to the temple and a "show" was made of the significant "offering" someone gave who was "very religious". Their actions on behalf of the widow or the poor were done in a noticeable fashion, so as others might be able to see them and give them praise for having "taken such favorable actions". As Jesus put it, they already have their reward - it was the public recognition they received - they cannot count on anything from God in return for their "actions of kindness" done to "show up another". It isn't what is done so much "openly" which gets God's attention, but what is held in the inner places of the heart and what is acted upon when you think no one else is watching.
Be careful! When you do something good, don’t do it in front of others so that they will see you. If you do that, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to those who are poor, don’t announce that you are giving. Don’t be like the hypocrites. When they are in the synagogues and on the streets, they blow trumpets before they give so that people will see them. They want everyone to praise them. The truth is, that’s all the reward they will get. So when you give to the poor, don’t let anyone know what you are doing. Your giving should be done in private. Your Father can see what is done in private, and he will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4 ERV)
For nearly a year we struggled with the poorest telephone connection imaginable. The squeaks, hums, buzzes, and clicks just about made it totally impossible to carry on a conversation over the phone. For most of us today we'd just say it was not big deal, cancel our landline service and go exclusively with our cells. For a blind, elderly female with a lack of feeling in her fingers, being without a big buttoned, beads glued onto special numbers phone is an impossibility! We worked and worked with our phone company, putting in repair request after repair request. I'd talk passionately with the men who showed up to test the lines and they'd test this, that and the next thing, leaving us with a "marginally better" connection in the end. In short order, we were right back to where started and mom was without contact with the outside world again!
At first, this story may not seem to make sense in light of the above passage, but let me tell you the rest of the story. We finally made some progress to get the phone company to dig up our front yard, complete with what was to be new cabling to the house which was to fix the problem permanently. For about a week, I had a four foot trench in the front yard, a huge pile of dirt, and barricades making my house look much like a construction zone. Finally the project was finished, the hole filled in, the sod put back into place and our phones worked - for all of about two days! Mom was heartbroken and I was feeling like I had no answers to give her - we had tried it all and now we had no other choices, but I filed another repair ticket and pleaded with the repairman to do something once again. He said the new cable was bad and they'd have to do it all over again - but he would have to run it passed his supervisors to see if they'd allow the work to be done again.
I don't know about you, but this just didn't seem to be the answer we needed. We had been in this position before and we waited endless weeks to find out no one would ever come to repair it. I just had to have someone intervene. That is when I remembered a small card left with a handwritten note by one of the repairmen on a past visit. I had squirreled it away in the side door pocket in the car and went to get it. You see, the number of a "supervisor" was on the card and I hoped I could make some kind of plea to have the work redone if I made contact with whoever answered on that end of the phone. If you want to understand the significance of this piece of paper, you only need to understand I had been trying for over a year to actually talk in person with a supervisor of ANY sort at the phone company, but got nowhere because most of the time the phone trees of automated answers got me nowhere! I don't know who left that note on my door, nor do I have any idea why they gave me the number they did, but when I called the number it was to a private cell phone of one of the supervisors who actually managed the division who needed to lay the cable we desperately needed in order to fix this problem!
When I called, she answered with hesitation as I was calling her personal cell phone and she wondered how I got her phone number. I apologized for calling her at home and asked if I could speak with her at work. She gave me that number and I left a detailed message which was returned the very next working day! Now, if you aren't getting the significance of this event, let me spell it out a little. The supervisor took my information, committed to having someone there that day, and would update me on the findings. By the end of the day, I had a call back, informing me the permits would be requested to dig another trench across the street, locate the exact portion of cabling which required repair, and it would be done within 5 days. In exactly the time frame specified, the workers were busily digging the trench, locating the bad cables and rerunning them to the necessary spot. If that wasn't enough, the supervisor called me personally to report the work was done!
I don't know who left the number, but I consider them a blessing from God! Their "deed" done in secret was the blessing we needed! The supervisor had no idea who gave out her personal phone number, but it was the "exact" blessing we needed in order to move forward with this necessary work. We may not know who brings the blessing, but we know when we have been blessed. We may not understand the significance of the blessing until we need it most, but the one leaving us the blessing knows it will be used when most needed! Just sayin!