Don’t Tell! – Giving UP Anonymity

Two people: One you know and one you probably don’t.

Frank Lloyd Wright is a world-famous architect whose works have been touted as being genius.  Even non-architects like myself have heard of the famous Frank Lloyd Wright who designed the Guggenheim Museum along with hundreds of other buildings.  He was named as the “greatest American architect of all time” by the American Institute of Architects.[1]  But Wright, as famous as he was, was equally famous for refusing to share the limelight.  Even when other architects made brilliant design contributions and in some cases took the lead on a project, he refused to allow them any credit.  He even threatened to bring them to court on charges of forgery unless they put his name first and submitted all documents for his approval.[2]  Wright was so consumed with his own fame and recognition that he refused to spread it to others.  At one point he decided to go it on his own without the help and collaborative effort of others in his field.  He immediately went on a nine-year slump where he only completed two projects.  It wasn’t until he invited people back into his creative process that he again flourished, but still didn’t credit anyone with his work.  Ed de St. Aubin, a psychologist who studied Wright’s work, said, “It is amazing that few of the hundreds” of Wright’s “apprentices went on to achieve significant, independent careers as practicing architects.”

You may not know George Meyer’s name, but you certainly know his work!

George Meyer on the other hand is definitely NOT a household name.

But much of what he has done with his life is known by many.  He is a writer who has worked on shows like Late Night with David Letterman, Saturday Night Live, and most famously for George, The Simpsons.[3]  Many of the most famous lines from that show are credited to him, and even the ones that are not, most writers on the staff say have been influenced by him.  George is a giver.  He likes to give credit where credit is due.  Sometimes even when it’s not.  There have been times, George could easily have pushed for more prominence (and deservedly so) on many episodes of The Simpsons but instead would let others have the credit and help develop their careers. He often did the unglamorous work of rewrites because that was where he felt the show needed him the most, although many believe he often had many great ideas.  He would put some of his strongest effort into helping out scripts focused not on the prominent guests like Madonna, but on lesser known ones that didn’t get as much attention.  He had what they call in the world of mountaineering, expedition behavior. 

Expedition behavior is a term for those who are selfless, generous, and put the team ahead of themselves.[4]  It’s the kind of quality that defined George.  The way George gave of his time and talent helped to cultivate the talent of others.  We simply don’t have the time to share all the praise those around him have given toward this man. Unlike Frank Lloyd Wright who took all the credit for himself and didn’t make an effort to cultivate the architects around him, George’s collaborative style has led to the success of many others who have gone on to very successful careers of their own.  Some have won Emmy Awards, some have become authors and actors, some have become cartoonists and columnists, one man wrote the famous “Soup Nazi” episode for Seinfeld (who also was an Emmy-nominated writer and producer for the show), and one went on to create the show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air that launched Will Smith’s career.[5]  Adam Grant in his book Give and Take calls George a genius-maker.  But what if we took these same ideas of selflessness and giving and turned them toward being better disciple-makers instead?

We’re going to delve into that.

This is the story of the man with leprosy.  It’s very short but we’re going to look at it in a different way.  As we read it, I want you to think about the way in which Jesus approaches his mission on Earth.  If he’s come to save the least and the lost, he’s doing it in a weird way – at least by our standards today. 

12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy.[b] When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.

14 Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”

15 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.– Luke 5:12-16

Jesus says many times to different people, “Don’t tell.”

He told the man he healed of leprosy, “Don’t tell,” but people knew what happened.  We don’t know if the man said something or people just saw what happened, but the news spread and crowds gathered to be healed.  In Matthew 9, Jesus healed two blind men and told them, “See that no one knows about this,” but they told anyway.  Then he raised a girl from the dead and again Jesus told the parents not to say a word.  And when the disciples see Jesus with Moses and Elijah, Jesus says not to tell anyone until after he has gone. Haven’t you ever wondered why he did this?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to tell EVERYBODY?  I mean, if you knew Jesus could heal the sick and raise the dead and had eyewitness testimony about it, wouldn’t YOU believe?  But Jesus was not trying to make a name for himself.  He was trying to give the glory to God.  He wanted us to have a heavenly perspective instead of an earthly oneIf people started fixating only on him, they would start to glorify Jesus, the MAN, create an earthly idol, and fail to see what truly mattered – the grace and love of God. 

Christ’s entire life was like this.

He lived a life in service to others, not to elevate himself but to bring people closer to God.  At any time, he could have proven his divinity, but instead he embraced his humanity.  He came not to conquer but to build community.  He came to bring glory to God and not to himself.  Had he wanted, he could have ruled the world by force.  Instead, he chose to sacrifice himself for the world.  Had Jesus become the leader the Israelites were looking for, Jesus would have been lord over a temporary kingdom, but the kingdom he built and is continuing to build is one that will last an eternity.  And that is the difference between givers and takers.  Givers are looking at the long haul.  They are looking to make the world a better place.  And even if that means sacrificing personal glory, they know the contribution they make will long outlast anything else they could achieve. 

The famous “Cliff Gardner” speech on Sports Night

One of my favorite stories is about a man named Cliff Gardner.

Like George Meyers, you probably don’t know him unless you watched the television show Sports Night back in the 90’s.  There was a scene where Sam, the Sports Night consultant, is explaining exactly who Cliff Gardner is to the studio execs.  He starts out by asking, “Do you know who Philo Farnsworth was?  He invented the television.  I don’t mean he invented television like Uncle Milty, I mean he invented the television in a little house in Provo, Utah.  But the one I really admire is his brother-in-law, Cliff Gardner. He said to Philo, ‘I know everyone thinks you’re crazy, but I want to be a part of this.  I don’t have your head for science…but it sounds like in order to do your testing, you’re gonna need glass tubes.’  See Philo was inventing the cathode receptor, and even though Cliff didn’t know what that meant or how that worked, he’d seen Philo’s drawings and he knew they were gonna need glass tubes and since television hadn’t been invented yet, it wasn’t like they could get them at the local TV repair shop.  ‘I want to be a part of this,’ Cliff said, ‘and I don’t have your head for science.  How would it be if I taught myself to be a glassblower?  And I could set up a little shop in the backyard.  And I could make all the tubes you’ll need for testing.’  There oughta be Congressional medals for people like that.”  The world needs more Cliff Gardners. The world needs more George Meyers.  We don’t need more Frank Lloyd Wright’s.  If we want to get the job done that Christ has given us, we need to be in the business of building people up, not taking people down.  Life is not a zero-sum game.  We don’t have to sacrifice the well-being of other people to get ahead ourselves.  Instead, we need to be focused on being disciple builders.  We need to focus on the needs and well-being of others and not worry about the credit we receive.  Because there is only one person whose approval we should be seeking, and his home is our ultimate destination. 

[1] Details of Frank Lloyd Wright’s career are from:

[2] Adam Grant, Give and Take, p. 78.  Details about Wright’s self-centered actions and Meyer’s selfless ones are all taken from Adam Grant’s book in the chapter The Ripple Effect.


[4] Grant, p. 74.

[5] Grant, p. 93.

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