It’s been about four years since I totally changed the way I eat. Prior to that I had done yo-yo dieting for a good portion of my life. The way I eat now is very satisfying and I rarely have cravings.
Another benefit is I no longer do mindless eating.
For those of you who have never struggled with this phenomenon, let me explain what it looks like.
For me it mainly had to do with chocolate. I would occasionally open a new package of Oreos after lunch, and before I knew it, half of them had disappeared! Sometimes the entire package would be gone before dinner.
The sad thing was I wouldn’t remember eating them. I would just sit there reading a book or watching TV, mindlessly devouring one cookie at the time. For hours. Occasionally I would look at the package and be shocked at how many times my hand must have reached in there and pulled out another Oreo that somehow made its way to my mouth and into my digestive tract.
It was an amazing feat. Too bad I didn’t have a cell phone with a video camera back then. I could have made a fortune on YouTube.
Something about today’s passage reminds me of this phenomenon.
Matthew 6 starts out with a warning. Jesus tells us to be careful what our motives are for doing good deeds (practicing our righteousness). He says that if we do them in front of other people, in order to be seen by those people, that’s all the reward we’ll get. God won’t reward us for them.
Then he applies the warning to three of the ways we practice our righteousness. The first one is giving to the needy.
Apparently when Jesus was on the earth, the religious leaders had a habit of announcing their good deeds so everyone could see them. Some would even have a musician blow a trumpet to get everyone’s attention when they were about to give a coin to a beggar. They wanted their acts of charity to be enjoyed by everyone. It didn’t matter where they were, on the street or in the synagogue, they wanted to be sure everybody saw who they were and noticed how incredibly generous they were being to the people who unfortunately were not so fortunate as them.
Kinda makes you want to throw up, doesn’t it.
I don’t know anyone today who blows trumpets to announce their donations, but there are other ways of getting people’s attention that are just as obvious.
It’s difficult—if not impossible—to give without at least one person knowing about it. Even if you make a donation online when no one else is around, someone who works at the charitable organization has a record of your donation and will be sure you get a receipt.
But Jesus is talking about your motivation for giving—not necessarily the anonymity of your gift.
WHY are you giving?
– Are you giving to make yourself look (and feel) good and generous?
– Are you giving so your good deeds might detract other people (and yourself . . . and possibly even God) from some not-so-good deeds you’ve done?
– Are you giving to make yourself look and feel like you’re pleasing to God? (Psst . . . you already are.)
If so, I think Jesus would say the same thing to you today . . . you have your reward. You look and feel good and generous. You’ve detracted the attention from your other deeds. And you look and feel like you’re pleasing God.
Jesus says in Matthew 6:3-4 that the kind of giving to the needy that God rewards is done in secret. And it’s the way he describes “in secret” that reminds me of the way I used to eat Oreos.
Jesus says you give “in secret” by not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing. That sounds an awful lot like mindless eating.
I think this means that your giving is so automatic you don’t even realize you’re doing it.
You see a homeless person at an intersection and you automatically pull out your wallet and give him cash. Or grab your extra bottle of water and hand it to her. Or pull the fast food gift card out of the glove compartment and bless them with a meal.
Or you see a neatly dressed man standing on a corner with a placard announcing he’s been laid off and has three children to feed. Your heart aches for him and his family and, without thinking, you drive to the nearest ATM, take out some cash and go back and hand it to him while his eyes fill up with tears.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with planned giving. Or regular giving. Those are an important part of our faith walk. And I believe God blesses us for those gifts—when our motivation is right.
But I think God is just crazy about mindless giving! Those times when our hearts are pierced by the need we see in someone and our automatic selfless response is to share with them what He has blessed us with. I think that kind of heart motivation grabs His attention. And gets us rewarded.
It’s not something we can plan and it’s not something we want to control. Heck, our left hand won’t even know what our right hand is doing! And we want to keep it that way.
Like me mindlessly eating a whole bag of Oreos. Only much better. For everyone involved.
Matthew 6:1-4 English Standard Version (ESV)
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.