The Mailbox Mystery

by

It all started a few weeks ago when a bag of candy that had No name or note was left in our mailbox. 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 very excited, first at the candy, then at the mystery.

“Where did you get that, Dad?” they asked.

“I found it in the mailbox,” I replied.

“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.

There you go. Did she not just blurt out what so many of us really think? It’s stupid to do good and tell no one. What was that verse about “Out of the mouth of babies and infants … (Ps. 8:2)”?

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: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is 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, and so on allow us to “livestream” every detail of our lives to 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.”

We witness, then we tweet about it. We visit a sick senior, then we “share a prayer request.” We help a neighbor, then we 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 the ancient virtue of doing good without telling the world about it? Try to do one good thing a day and tell no one about it. Once we can lift that without screaming, let’s 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 very alien to do something without others knowing about it. I mean, does a good deed exist if no one knows about it?

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 who is 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.

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, NKJV). 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 fame?”

And by the way, our young female detectives solved the mystery within twenty-four 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, the house of a lady neighbor whose boyfriend works for a candy company. 

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.