When one hears the term secret life, the images brought forth are generally those of mystery. It seems our daily news gives us many examples of these secrets, from the person who lived as a pauper but really had millions, to the discovery of a man who had two wives and two families simultaneously hidden from each other. A number of years ago I had an uncle who, when he had passed away, it was found that he had a safety deposit box that no one had known about. Unfortunately, when opened, the box was empty and the secret of what it had held passed away with the uncle.
Contrary to what we might think, Christians are instructed to have secret lives, or more specifically, aspects of their lives held in secret. This may sound a bit odd considering how honest, open, and God honoring our actions are to be, but we find these secret behaviors listed in Matthew chapter six. Believers are to give in secret (v 2-4), pray in secret (v5-6), and to fast in secret (v 16-18). Why the secrecy? The context of the passages is quite clear and the main reason is religious hypocrites.
It’s the rich religious hypocrites who make a big show when giving their tithes and offerings, looking for admiration over the amount of their generosity. The praying hypocrites are really actors, playing at praying while giving the impression they are vitally connected to God. The fasters want all to see how humble they are and how good they keep themselves under subjection. What all these obtain by their actions is a measure of honor and admiration from men, but God is not impressed. He has no more blessings in store for them.
In these verses in Matthew Jesus says that giving, praying, and fasting in secret will be rewarded by God openly. Who but God really needs to know how much you give, or to whom you give it? Does not God hear you at home by yourself when you pray? Can one not challenge himself to fast as long as he can without anyone catching on? The purpose here is to bring honor and glory to God, not to yourself, and then let God give you back the honor due you.
We all live some manner of a secret life whether we are Christians or not. What do you do when you’re home alone? What do you say when you talk to yourself? Do you use language you wouldn’t use if conversing with someone else? Do you go places or read things that you wouldn’t want a parent, or a spouse, or your children to know about? I have heard it said that what you do when you are alone, that is who you really are.
Jesus reminds us in Luke 8:17 that “nothing is secret that shall not be made manifest; neither anything hid, that shall not be known.” This means the good secrets; the giving, praying, and fasting. This also means the bad secrets that you think no one will ever find out; the lying, stealing, and adultery. Which secrets, if known, would bring you esteem or respect, and which would you be ashamed to have brought to the light of day? You can hide secrets from men for maybe your whole life, but nothing escapes the notice of God, be it a secret or our true selves.