It was Serve Day. People had gathered at Manna House in their matching t-shirts to go into the community. Some would deliver food; others would paint houses; some would visit the elderly.
We began passing out name tags and markers. Wear the sticker so others can know you by name.
But one gentleman balked. He refused the sticker. He didn’t want to wear his name tag.
At first I thought it was for privacy. Maybe he didn’t want people knowing him by his name.
Then I overheard his wife ask him, “Why aren’t you wearing a name tag?”
He quoted, “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”
Oh. I recognized Jesus’s words from the Sermon on the Mount:
“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.
. . . But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”
Matthew 6:1, 3-4
Would that include not wearing a name tag into the community?
Sometimes it’s hard to know. We don’t want to do acts of service for praise or recognition. We don’t want to expect acknowledgement or a personal thanks.
Yet, on the other hand, Jesus also said,
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
So which is it?
- Do we keep our good works secret so no one will know, or
- Do we let others see them so God can be glorified?
Perhaps the key is our own motive. We ask ourselves why: Am I doing this to make me look good? Or instead am I doing it to make God look good?
If I had to keep my good deed a secret, would I still do it?
Our intentions matter.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”
We can be a prideful people. Humility doesn’t come naturally. And even though God’s grace covers our cockiness, his power outweighs our pride, he wants us to be humble. Like Jesus was humble.
In The Blessing of Humility, Jerry Bridges points out that,
“Humility is the second-most frequently taught trait in the New Testament, second only to love.”
So was the man with no name tag being humble or just legalistic? Is saying your name being prideful? Or being personable?
That’s between God and him.
But because of the anonymous man, I also now see name tags as an opportunity for a heart check.
Can I take an opportunity to serve without turning it into a show of pride?
For me that day, wearing a name tag was a relationship-builder. It was a sign of friendliness and availability to other people, a way to show God’s love.
But ultimately, if God can’t get good credit, may I remain anonymous, too.
* * *
Do you like to be acknowledged for what you do? Does it matter if someone else notices or not? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
More on Humility:
- Want Him to Read Your Mind? Yada, Yada, Yada
- 10 Practices of “The Happiness Prayer”