In the closet

As Americans, we have the “right to privacy.” Given the electronic media and all of the surveillance that goes on, you wonder how much privacy there is. Still, when you read about nations where there was no private life at all, you understand how precious privacy can be.

Orthodox Christians do not have a right to privacy.Privacy is not a right; it is both our obligation and our way of life. Jesus spoke of this way of life in the Sermon on the Mount:“When you fast, don’t show it on your face;Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing;Put your treasure in heaven; When you pray, enter into your closet; Don’t give alms before men.”We are to live secret lives where all that we do is hidden from the eyes of men.

There is one simple reason why we live secret lives – it is in secret that we meet the Father.Jesus said, “Pray to thy Father Who is in secret” and “the Kingdom of God is within you.” It is in this secret place that we commune with the Father in prayer.The more we know the Father and the more intimate the relationship becomes, the more we find that we want no one’s approval but our Father’s approval. The only “well done” that we care to hear is from our Father. Then all that we do in public, all that we do for others, we do for our Father’s approval alone.

It doesn’t take much then to figure out if you have a private life with the Father or not. One sure test is when no one says “Thank you.”When this happens, we usually feel angry or sad that our good work went unnoticed.We wonder if we should continue our work since no one bothered to say “thanks.”Another gauge is how quickly we take offense and become angry whenever someone opposes our plans or work.

In the beginning, a secret life was not necessary. We lived in the Garden, where God was pleased to walk with us. We could do our good works and there was no mixture of vanity or false pride. When our Parents were expelled from the Garden, then the private life became necessary.Now, vanity and pride would be mixed into everything that we do.Everything, even acts of self-denial and heroism could be tainted with pride and vanity.Even worse, our very piety and service to the Church can become the work of Pharisees where we do all not to please our Father in Heaven, but to be well thought of and acclaimed by our brothers and sisters.

The Lord said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. We are Orthodox in name only if we have no secret life with the Father. It is from that closet, that secret place that we find our heart’s true treasure.Without it, we believe that we are people of good will doing good things. In truth, what we treasure is praise, acclaim, and reward. Such things will pass away, and rust, and thieves will break in and steal them. I think of so many in my lifetime who sought fame and notoriety, and having gained it, found that the thief came and took it away.

Did Jesus have a secret place? Yes. Matthew wrote that when the Lord dismissed his disciples, “he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” You see, the only treasure that lasts for all eternity is the relationship we have with our Father. Then, if we have our secret place, our right hand won’t know what our left hand is doing, and we won’t care at all. Our so-called reputation will be like a filthy rag and we will be glad of it.

The private life is our lifestyle and our obligation. It is also our greatest treasure. If our heart is in the closet, then no moth, no rust, no thief will ever be able to take our treasure from us.

Do you have a secret place?Without it, Ecclesiastes is correct! “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.”Yet, with our hearts in the closet with our Father, we will walk in the Garden again with God. Then whatever we do will be free from vanity.

One Response to “In the closet”

  1. Bruce Says:

    Excellent post, thank you…

    I was once challenged to do something nice for someone each day and then keep it a secret. It soon became clear how much of what I do was a function of trying to get something…not truly give something.

    There is a relationship between the idea you express and my honesty in how we deal with God, others, and ourselves. If my actions are driven by a desire to convince the world of something, and thus to have the world confirm something I believe I need ‘out there’, my level of honesty and integrity is missing. I like to think of honesty as “an absense of an intent to deceive’. If my actions are about convincing you of something that I really don’t believe about myself, I’m simply playing a game of deception where I lose what is most important…an intimacy with God based upon ‘no secrets’ of who I am…and a confusion about God that believes the in my self deception, I can deceive him as well.

    I think AA has an interesting way of expressing this in their 12th Tradition. It supports the idea that when are actions are attached to outcomes and not spiritual principles are bindings are to sand not rock.

    And finally, we of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that the principle of Anonymity has an immense spiritual significance. It reminds us that we are to place principles before personalities; that we are actually to practice a genuine humility. This to the end that our great blessings may never spoil us; that we shall forever live in thankful contemplation of Him who presides over us all.

    Cool blog…I’m enjoying checking it out..thanks

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