Jamey Tucker has a story today about a missions project involving the Christian band Jars of Clay. It sound like a very worthwhile missions project. Jamey closes the story with an observation about this being what a true Christian band would do.
Rick Warren, the author of A Purpose-Driven Life seems to have told every person in Christendom that he ‘reverse-tithes’, ie. give away 90% and keep 10%.
Other Christians I’ve met and whose blogs I’ve read often make no secret of their giving activities. They’ll let it drop casually in conversation that they’ve paid for the new plasma screens in the church or that their company donated foodstuffs to the homeless shelter. Or they’ll share deeply personal decisions to alter their lifestyles and give the proceeds to ‘the needy.’
It happens in the secular world all the time. Think celebrities who “donated their time” for high-press events in the wake of 9/11 and Katrina. With mainstream secular folk it’s a slightly different story, simply because these people have often made no public claim to the Christian or Jewish faiths, and as such can’t be expected to be governed by the same standard.
But in the Jewish and Christian worlds we have several examples about giving. In Judaism you were instructed to bring your offerings to the storehouse, and pool them with the offerings of others. Giving was NOT a personal act. The gifts to the needy were distributed from the communal store, effectively distancing the giver from the receiver. This was to benefit both. The Giving party comes to understand the concept of Mitzvah, or Goodness for Goodness’ sake, while the Receiving party has no sense of direct obligation to any human being, but only to God.
Of course, by the time Jesus the Radical showed up, the circumstances had changed. Wealthy believers would loudly announce their gifts as they entered the storehouse. It was roughly the equivalent of someone standing up in a church today and saying “Here I am putting $50K in the offering plate!” In Matthew 6:1-3, Jesus had this to say:
1 “Be careful that you don’t do your charitable giving before men, to be seen by them, or else you have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2 Therefore when you do merciful deeds, don’t sound a trumpet before yourself, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may get glory from men. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward.
3 But when you do merciful deeds, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand does,
Even in cases where He Himself performed miracles, he would ask the healed parties to not tell anyone. The good that we do isn’t supposed to reflect on us. It’s supposed to be a Mitzvah–good for the sake of good. Not the sake of good press.