The Mailbox Mystery

It all started a few weeks ago with a bag of candy left in our mailbox. No name, no note. Hmm!

Then, a few days ago, I noticed colorful packaging sticking out of the mailbox. Moving closer, I discovered two boxes of candy and three packets of Kit-Kats. Again, no name, no note. Hmmmm?

When I brought the booty into the house, the kids got so excited, first at the candy, then at the mystery.

“Where did you get that, Dad?”

“I found it in the mailbox.”

“Who put it there?”

“I have no idea. There’s no note, no name, nothing.”

“DAAAAD! You put it there, didn’t you?”

I didn’t…honestly.”

Their cynicism eventually gave way to faith in my innocence, and the investigation moved to, “Well if it wasn’t Dad, who was it?”

The neighborhood was mentally scoured. “Well they wouldn’t do it….He certainly wouldn’t do it…She might have done it;” and so on.

Eventually my wife said, “Maybe it’s a Christian who just wants to bless you without you knowing his name.”

“But why would anyone want to do that?” asked my young daughter.

“Well,” said my wife, “Some Christians like to give things to other people without letting everyone know about it.”

“That’s dumb!” was the response.

She said what we think
There you go. Did she not just blurt what so many of us really think? “It’s stupid to do good and tell no one.” What was that about, “Out of the mouths of babes and infants…?”

But doing good without tooting your horn is not dumb. The wisest man that ever lived said it’s actually meant to be the norm: “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 6:1).

It’s never been easier to live so much of our lives “before other people…to be seen by them.” Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc., allow us to “livestream” every detail of our lives with multiple readers, friends, and followers. In fact “sharing” has become such a “default” for us that, yes, not to share what we’ve done for others does seem “dumb.”

Coram mundus?
We witness, then Tweet about it. We visit a sick senior, then “share a prayer request.” We help a neighbor, then sprint to update our status. We even have to offer live updates when hearing God’s Word! Living coram Deo (before the face of God) is no longer the pinnacle of Christian experience; rather it’s living coram mundus (before the face of the world).

Ask yourself: When was the last time I did anything worthwhile and told no one about it? When was the last time I visited a lonely person and didn’t drop it into the next conversation I had? When was the last time I shared the Gospel and didn’t share that I shared the Gospel?

How about we try to strengthen that ancient virtue of doing good without telling the world about it. Try to do one good thing a day and tell no one about. And once we can lift that without screaming, add another weighty but secret good deed, then another, then another, and so on. It’s going to be hard at first. It’s going to feel so alien to do something without others knowing about it. I mean, does a good deed exist if no one knows about it?

Warning and Incentive
But let me offer a warning and an incentive to help us through the pain barrier. The warning first:Let’s remember that every time we do something good and tell everybody, we “will have no reward from [our] Father in heaven.” So we’ve got a choice: a few seconds of sinners’ “likes” and “retweets” on earth, or an eternal reward from God in heaven.

And the incentive? Sometimes it can be very hard to persevere in well-doing when no one else ever sees or knows. But, Jesus assures us, “Your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (Matt. 6:4). What an encouraging promise! My Father sees, my Father knows, and my Father will reward me! Divine love instead of Facebook “likes.”

So, the next time you do something commendable and you’re tempted to stretch for your smartphone or computer to “share,” ask yourself: “Am I sacrificing a divine reward from my Father in heaven for the sake of a few seconds of social media crack?”

Mystery solved
And by the way, our young female detectives solved the mystery within 24 hours. Some door-to-door work eventually revealed that every neighbor had been similarly blessed with bags and boxes of anonymous candy. Well, not every neighbor, because they eventually found a house without candy, and a lady neighbor whose boyfriend works for a candy company!

A slightly edited version of this article first appeared in the August issue of Tabletalk. You can read more of the August columns and articles here. Or sign up for a free three month trial (US only).

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Disability and Salvation: A Moving Personal Testimony

A dear brother with disabilities contacted me recently to share his moving story of how the Lord saved him. He graciously granted me permission to share his testimony, with the proviso that some identifying features be edited. 

I am in my thirties and was born prematurely and with cerebral palsy. (It is very mild and only affects my walking and balance). When I was growing up my parents and siblings treated me like a normal person, helped me tremendously with things, and were very supportive of everything I did. They never complained, but sacrificed a lot of their time and personal resources to help me where and when they could.

My parents always said, “It affects your walking not your brain.” There were many things that they didn’t do, because they didn’t want me to feel left out. They always encouraged me to try things and if I failed they understood and would still be happy I had tried.

Questioning God
On the other hand there was my take on my disability and it was one of low self-esteem and bitterly questioning God. Socially, throughout my schooling, I kept to the shadows as I was very self-conscious of how I not only looked (very thin) but how others saw how I walked. I didn’t like to participate in things because I knew I couldn’t do them well or looked odd doing/trying them.

I’m thankful that through all this I had a very supportive group of teachers and amazing classmates who helped and supported me. Personally, while growing up (and still into my mid-twenties), I was very bitter and questioned God with “Why me”. I would always complain I can’t do this or that…but that all changed ia few years ago when I attended my first Church retreat.

Looking for a girl
I went to this retreat “looking for a girl” and the spiritual aspect was one of “I don’t care, I am here to look for a girlfriend.” Pastor X was there as a speaker and I spoke personally one-on-one with him for a few hours. Through talking with him, things started to change in my heart and when the retreat was over later in the week, I felt that God had entered my heart, and that He had personally become my Father.

It felt as if a weight had been removed and I cried so hard that I was so sorry for asking “Why?” all this time to God. “Sorry” didn’t and still doesn’t feel adequate for all the times I “slapped God in the face” by even questioning Him.

Boasting in weakness
Before I would have classified myself a “formalistic” christian, but now I see things in a whole new perspective. 2 Cor. 12:9-10 is now my motto for my life.

Pastor X has become a very close and dear friend of mine, as well as my spiritual mentor, and gives a listening ear when there is difficulty. I am so thankful to God for bringing and using Pastor X in my life, as well as for giving me this “thorn in the flesh.”

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