The Audience of One

2.5.24 Devo Image

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 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 6:1–4 (NIV)

“I never said ‘thank you,’” exclaimed Commissioner Jim Gordon as Batman walks off after having saved Gotham City from the League of Shadows and now goes off to look into a criminal who leaves a Joker card at crime scenes. As he turns, the Dark Knight responds, “And you’ll never have to . . .” 

This line heard in 2005’s Batman Begins has always stuck with me. Why? Because Bruce Wayne doesn’t don the cape and cowl for recognition, respect, or reward—he doesn’t need or want to be thanked or adored by the people of Gotham. He does it to help people; to protect them and keep them safe. He makes this clear at the end of The Dark Knight when he willingly takes the fall for the crimes committed by Harvey Dent/Two-Face. 

Where am I going with this? Well, in the same way Batman doesn’t do what he does for the praise of others or demand that he be adored by the people he protects, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus instructs us to consider why we “practice righteousness.” Like Batman, we’re not supposed to do it for the praise and adoration of man. 

Making His point practical for His listeners, Jesus ties this truth to giving. He says that those who give loudly and publicly, who make it known they’re giving a gift, are hypocrites and frauds. They’re not giving or serving out of genuine compassion, care, and benevolence toward the needy. It has nothing to do with their wellbeing, but instead with their social standing. It’s like the guy who stacks chairs at youth group so the girls will think he’s such a servant. And thus, the only reward for such “righteousness” is that which we seek: the quick and momentary praise of fickle, “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” people!

The reality behind true service, kindness, compassion, and generosity is that it’s a response. What do I mean? Well, true generosity and right living (righteousness) is a response to the generosity of God toward us; it’s a byproduct of the goodness of God through Christ in us. It comes from God and is done because of His love and kindness toward us. We do it so others may experience the same love and generosity of God that we’ve experienced. And we keep it secret so He and He alone gets the glory!

This is why Jesus tells us to “not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.” Because when we do it this way, we’re doing it for an audience of One (Matthew 25:40). And guess what? The reward He gives is greater than anything anyone else can give us. Not only that, but we can be sure that in every act of generosity, not only is He glorified, but He works in and through it to plant seeds and move in the hearts and lives of those impacted by the gift.

Friends, remember that like Batman, we don’t need a “thank you” from anyone, because that’s not why we do it. Instead, may we view every act of generosity on our part as our “THANK YOU” to God for His indescribable gift and ask Him to use these acts to further His kingdom!

Pause: Why did Jesus tell us to give in secret? 

Practice: Today, find some way to serve someone. Perhaps give to a person in need, but find a way to do it without them knowing who did it. As you do, thank the Lord for His grace and kindness and ask Him to move through your generosity, which is a response to His generosity.

Pray: Heavenly Father, I thank You for Your grace, goodness, kindness, and generosity toward me. I know that everything I have is from You and that apart from You I’d be helpless, lost, hopeless, and dead in my sins. I pray I’d never lose sight of this and seek the praise of others. Instead, that I’d do everything for Your glory, for the advancement of Your kingdom, and for the declaring of Your Son’s name to all the world. Amen.

About the Author

Danny Saavedra

Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.