Sunday, March 23, 2014

Let Your Light Shine...

The message at church today was based around Matthew 5:13-16 (Salt and Light). These are words of Jesus which I have tried to live by:

You are the light of the world, like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all…Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

And yet, in the next chapter, Jesus says:

Take care! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give a gift to someone in need, don’t shout about it as the hypocrites do, blowing trumpets in the synagogue and streets to call attention to their acts of charity!...give your gifts in secret and your Father…will reward you.

I have struggled with the conflict, contrast and balance between these two ideas. The second part is quite convicting. Social media has provided the modern day equivalent of the “hypocrites trumpet” – whatever we’re doing, whatever cause we’re pushing, pop it up on the internet and hundreds, potentially thousands of people will see it.

I have been accused by people close to me of being prideful and self-promoting in my advocacy with Compassion International. It appeared to them that I was making it all about me, because I regularly mentioned how many kids I sponsored (many). The “give your gifts in secret” verse from Matthew 6 was thrown at me.

It’s fair to say I have been quite public in my advocacy with Compassion International and more recently The Ruel Foundation. In 2012 the local newspaper in Portland, Victoria published an article about my Brazil trip and Compassion journey. In September 2013, a friend released a mini-documentary of my Compassion journey, and at the same time I had a double page article in the Compassion magazine (neither of which was instigated by me). I have written about my Compassion trips to 12 countries on my blog, which has now had 12,000 hits in 18 months.

This “double barrel” of publicity earned me a few days of wonderful encouragement and nice comments across social media. Apparently the doco was watched in all the Compassion Australia offices. People were inspired, encouraged and challenged, and I was thankful that God was using me to impact people’s lives. However, according to some I was “letting my light shine”, but it was shining on me, rather than God.

The problem I had with this was: how did they possibly know this? Did they interview or search the hearts of every single person who read the article or watched the doco? The unfortunate reality is that no matter how much you “let your light shine”, there are some people who won’t “praise your Father in heaven.” They’ll look at you and say what a wonderful person you are and what great work you’re doing, but won’t acknowledge that you are doing it to glorify God. Does that mean that others can point the finger and mistakenly come to the conclusion that “Your light is shining on yourself and not God”?

My advocacy for the Ruel orphanage in the Philippines through a Facebook page and blog has resulted in 200 extra “likes”, and exposed hundreds of people from Australia to the amazing work they do helping children, whereas previously they were better known in New Zealand and the US.

My wrestling with the two ideas “Let your light shine” and “Give your gifts in secret” is by no means over, but for now I have come to this conclusion:

The difference between the two ideas is: It’s about what is in your heart - your attitude and motivation. Are you doing it for God’s glory, or to earn the praise of people? To me, it is important that other people know about organisations such as Compassion and Ruel, and I’m going to shout it from the rooftops so that everyone knows what great, God-honouring work they do. It’s not for a moment about me. I’m not that foolish and arrogant.

In my advocacy, my intention as always been:
* For God to be glorified
* For more kids to be sponsored
* For more lives to be transformed
* For people to see God in me, when they look at a life filled with sacrificial generosity.
* For people to have the opportunity to help, and give to organisations that are quality, trustworthy and filled with integrity, as I know both Compassion and Ruel are.

In November 2013, I let people know that I would be working at The Ruel Foundation in the Philippines, and needed to find sponsors for my 29 Compassion kids. Within a month, all the kids were sponsored by family and friends. You know why? Because I had taken photos, videos and told their stories. People could connect with them in a more meaningful way and knew more about Compassion because I was sharing through the lens of my personal experience. If I had stayed silent and just stuck the pic on my Facebook page and said “Who wants to sponsor him?” there’s no way it would have happened.

As far as I’m aware, no one can see the heart but God, therefore we should think carefully before judging the heart and the motivation of others. I am comfortable I can appear before God and my motives and attitude in the public nature of my advocacy will be revealed to be clean and pure – that I was doing it for His glory.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice
. (Proverbs 31:8, 9)

1 comment:

  1. David if anybody took the time to get to know you, or had listened to you speak, they would have heard you say numerous times that this is not about you but for God's glory. If the conviction of God on their heart when confronted with an example like yours makes them accuse you of shining your own light then it is their heart which needs examining not yours. Of course you should continually examine your own heart, this is also biblical and healthy, but not because of what others say and only because of what God says. Continue to speak up, continue to let the light of Christ in you be seen, or we will all be the worse for missing it.