Jump Start # 2177
Matthew 6:3 “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”
Anonymous—that certainly seems to be the hot topic of the week politically. The New York Times published a tell-all inside story of the goings on of the White House. The article was written by an anonymous senior staffer. Now the hunt is on to reveal who this is person. Then, Bob Woodward published a book in which he interviewed dozens of anonymous high ranking officials about the current President.
Anonymous is certainly making the rounds. But this is nothing new. Mr. Anonymous has been alive and well for years and has had an influence upon the spirit of congregations. An unsigned letter is mailed to the elders or the preacher. In it, a scathing rebuke is made and the charge that certain ones have no business in the Lord’s business. The words are plain, harsh and unsigned. Those that received the letter try to figure out who wrote it. The rebuke stings but it is often one sided and doesn’t understand the whole story.
Sometimes anonymous appears in other forms. Instead of a letter, it is an imagery crowd. Someone declares, “Everyone is upset about this.” The “Everyone,” happens to be me, myself and I. Or, “no one goes along with this,” is often just me and my wife. Making the crowd larger than what it really is, supposedly gives more credit and substance to one’s disapproval. It sounds better if one can say, “Everyone,” rather than just, “Me.”
Our passage has a spirit of anonymity within it. It is directed toward doing good. Helping the poor and not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing, is another way of saying, don’t toot your horn. Don’t pat yourself on the back. Don’t brag about what you have done. Just do good and do it in secret. Don’t let others know. Now, this is in the arena of goodness. You help someone. You give someone a gift. You compliment someone. You encourage someone. You don’t have to make a big deal about that, rally the troops and lead the charge. Just do what you can and forget it. Don’t keep track. Don’t remind the receiver of the gift you gave. Don’t put guilt upon others because you did something and they didn’t. Just silently do good.
That’s our passage. That makes sense. That’s one time being anonymous is good. It seems that we often get things backwards. When it comes to doing good, we tend to brag. However, when we want to express our complaints, we hide in the shadows of being anonymous.
Through the years, I have received a few anonymous letters. Most were negative. Most were trying to set things in order as they saw them. Here is what I learned from anonymous letters.
The person who sends anonymous letters is not interested in a discussion. They don’t want resolution. They want to tell you how wrong you are. Their mind is made up. They are not interested in hearing what you have to say. They are finished. This is their last parting shot.
The person who sends anonymous letters does not want to participate in helping fix things. They lay it all upon you. Here’s the problem. You must fix it. They do not have solutions. They do not want to be a part of the solution. They see some injustice and expect you to take care of it.
The person who sends anonymous letters wants to hide in obscurity. They do not want to be known. They can fire shots across the bow and even say mean and hateful things without any consequences because no one knows who they are. They are bold in their anonymity. They would never say to your face what they send in an anonymous letter. They are as bold as Luther, nailing the 95 protests to the door, however, unlike Luther, these folks would do it in the middle of the night and no one would ever know who authored those things. Notes typed out so no one can recognize the handwriting. Notes slid under an office door. Notes threatening trouble if action is not taken. Demanding. Hateful. Unkind. One sided.
The person who sends anonymous letters is not walking in the steps of Jesus. Remember the Matthew passage, if someone sins against you, go and reprove him in private (18:15). That’s the Biblical pattern. These days, an anonymous letter would be sent to the offending person. Harsh language and threats would be made. Rather than follow Jesus’ words, where a discussion can take place. Where there is an opportunity for apologies, forgiveness and grace, our way blows things up. It makes a mess. How can one apologize if they don’t know who to or what the situation is about. It’s like what typically happens in many marriages. The wife walks into the room, obviously upset. The clueless husband asks, “What’s wrong?” She says, “You know.” And, he doesn’t. He panicky tries to think of something. Her birthday? Our anniversary? Did I say something about her mother? Did I forget to pick something up on the way home? She becomes more upset because he doesn’t know. Anonymous letters do the same.
So, what am I to do if I am upset with someone? What if I do not agree with something the preacher said? What if I don’t think the elders are on the right path with something they are planning? What should I do?
First, calm down. That’s important. Breathe. The fiery spirit is what writes the anonymous letters. Pray. Think things out.
Second, find a mutual time to meet with the person you are upset with and talk with him. Going out the door of the church house is not the time nor the place. Making a scene in front of others is not the place.
Third, when you meet, be calm. Address the issue. Don’t attack the person. Don’t bring up a bunch of stuff that is unrelated. Explain how you feel and why you are upset. They may not know. Don’t play guessing games.
Fourth, listen. Allow the person to respond. Now, they may go on the attack, and that’s wrong for them. Most times, a person naturally puts up a form of defense. Often, they may not even know that you were hurt or have even considered your perspective. I have had people upset with something I said in a sermon. We talked about it. On one occasion, we sat together and listened to a replay of the sermon. I never said what they thought I did. The facts were put before them and we discovered that there wasn’t a problem after all. This can only happen if you are as willing to listen to them as much as you want them to listen to you.
Fifth, if you are in the wrong, apologize. If they are, offer grace. Try to build bridges to connect, not fences that keeps us apart. Consider who the person is. Consider the big picture. A child of God is more likely to do what is right than a person of the world. Someone not following God is as likely to deny, lie, distort to save face. That does become a real problem. But among brethren, you want to strive to keep unity. You want to honor Christ. The right thing needs to prevail. Don’t be too big to admit wrong. Don’t be too harsh to forgive.
Finally, if the other person is in the wrong, work to make it right. Be part of the solution. Then, once you have moved past this, let it go. Don’t remember it. Don’t keep reminding others of it. Don’t gossip. It’s finished, so act that way.
And for those of us that receive anonymous letters, there is a special round container that they need to placed in. It’s called the trash can. Read the letter. Think about it. Then toss it. If a person won’t be honest enough to do what Jesus wants, don’t let it get under your skin.
I love the story of two men in the church who had a falling out. It got ugly. They finally met to talk it out. One was really mad. He was ready to put the other guy in orbit. As the discussion began, one asked if he could say a prayer. He prayed that he would listen to his brother. He prayed that his heart would be open to how he had hurt him. He prayed for forgiveness. He prayed that their friendship through all these years would not end. He thanked the Lord for this good heart that came to him. This went on for a while. When the prayer ended, he said, “Please tell me how I have hurt you.” The other man, with tears running down his cheeks, said, “It’s ok. Let’s be friends.”
Maybe if we prayed together more, and sent fewer anonymous letters things would be better among us. It’s a mess in Washington. What’s missing in all of that political turmoil is the spirit of Jesus. I don’t know how all of that will turn out, but I do know, if you and I walked more closely to the Lord, all of our relationships, even the bumpy ones, would improve.
No, I mean, Roger.