Secrecy is a practice that has been obscured in our day-in-age. On the one hand, we live in a social media world. Facebook boasts over a billion users. If Facebook were a country, it would be the most populous. Social media is almost an essential part of our culture and our world. Businesses and organizations realize that it’s difficult or nearly impossible to connect with consumers and grow without social media. The world we live in begs a social media presence, a virtual reality that easily (or inevitably) slips into a superficial reality.
On the other hand, we also have a heightened concern for privacy. Some of the concerns include the protection of sensitive information that can be damaging if exposed to the wrong people (and rightly so), but also includes the concern for private space that is secretive and unknown to anyone because of fear of criticism, ridicule, or shamefulness.
So, it seems like we have a peculiar understanding and practice of secrecy. Social media platforms can produce narcissism, boasting, addiction to praise, addiction to the approval of others, superficiality, bullying and trolling, depression, anxiety, etc. At the same time, we have areas in our lives where we make the fullest effort to stay as secretive as possible. We want to have people see us, but not completely; it’s a visibility through the filter (no pun intended) of desiring acceptance, approval, and praise.
This tandem play between secrecy and over exposure has to do with the motives that decide whether something is posted or not.
Jesus spoke about the motives that drive our desire to be seen by others. In Matthew 6:1-8, Jesus talks about behavior, good deeds in particular, being made in secret instead of pompously in public. Jesus gives two examples: giving money to the poor and prayer. These are prime facebook/instragram material for us today. But Jesus explains that instead of announcing our good deeds “with trumpets” (the equivalent of perhaps posting a picture or story with at least fifteen hash tags), to instead do it in secret.
This type secrecy can be a spiritual discipline for us living in our social media world. This is a different type of secrecy than the “privacy” mentioned above that is so highly valued by our culture. Jesus’ secrecy does not perpetuate bad habits hidden in secret; on the contrary, Jesus’ secrecy is transformative as it shapes us out of the negative paradigms and influences that are part of our social media culture.
It’s also important to know that social media in itself is not evil and can serve good purposes. After all, Jesus did say to “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Jesus is not saying to do everything in secret and hide everything. His words don’t mean that we cannot use social media, never again posting about our lives, our accomplishments, trips, or our current meal (so don’t get anxious!). Jesus is questioning our motives. Are we shining a light for people to see Jesus through us, to see our good deeds and glorify our Father (Matthew 5:16), or are we seeking glory for our actions and ourselves? This is true not just on social media, but also when we’re with family, friends, and acquaintances. Are we giving an image of ourselves to others, wherever that may be, that seeks self-glorification and approval from others? This question is very important for Jesus. It’s not just about what we do, but how we do it.
When it comes to social media and seeking approval and acceptance, it’s also true that our motives are tied with insecurity. It can take time to teach ourselves that we are secure in Jesus, and that we should not depend on the approval of others because we’ve already been accepted by our Father in heaven. But this learning can begin by the spiritual discipline of practicing secrecy. This means resisting what is ingrained in our culture and society. It means resisting the temptation and seduction of self-aggrandizement through a superficial and virtual self, all the while seeking approval from others with the consequence of having our happiness and identity depend on those approvals. Let us resist this practice of self-glorification and let us resist being driven by insecure motives. Questioning our motives can be one of the most difficult spiritual practices we can do, because it is in the heart where no one can see. But as we question our heart to adjust behavior, the Holy Spirit works in our lives to transform us to be more like Christ.
The middle of three brother, Nehemias was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He graduated from LABI in 2009, then obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Religion from Vanguard University in 2011, and a Master’s in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary in 2015. He currently works at LABI as Chief of Staff and as an adjunct professor teaching courses such as New Testament, Old Testament, among others. He married Gaby in December 2015 where they live in Pasadena, California. They both serve as worship leaders and Sunday school teachers at New Life Church in Mid City Los Angeles.