Hidden Nuggets Series #29 – “Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory before me. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their rewards. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” – Matthew 6:2-4
Jesus was calling out some pretty crusty characters in the Bible verses I quoted above. The “hypocrites” he mentioned were actually the religious teachers of the time known as the Pharisees. Even though they were the church leaders, they were actually very poor spiritual role models. On this occasion, Jesus was blasting them for their practice of giving to charity openly for all to see.
The Pharisees would give only to get noticed. They would make sure people were watching them at church when they put their offering in the collection box. They looked down on people who didn’t give as much. One could even find them on the street corners bragging about how much they had given, even though it was a small percentage compared to their overall wealth.
To an outsider, their giving to charity looked very religious and sacrificial. Jesus saw right through the motives and exposed their hypocrisy. In reality, he said their purpose in giving was to gain status, power and the favor of men. Needless to say, they didn’t like Jesus much for saying this.
Think this still applies to us today? I do. It’s not like human nature has changed. We battle against the same self-seeking motivations that characterized the Pharisees.
Giving to Charity Privately
I work very hard to keep my giving a secret. Mostly because it’s my own business how much I’m giving and to whom I’m giving it. I have my own giving plan and nobody needs to know what I’m doing.
The bigger reason though is to reduce any spirit of pride that might crop up. I have a selfish nature that loves to grandstand. It’s there ready to bust out at a moment’s notice and shout, “Yeah…that was me!”
Giving to charity shouldn’t be about seeking the praise of men. It’s about meeting a need based on an inner conviction to do so. It’s not about me…it’s about the cause. Forcing myself to privately give continually reminds me of that fact.
Now, it’s impossible to keep giving 100% a secret. Of course the church secretary knows how much we give because she processes our checks every month. I guess we could put cash in the offering plate to bypass her but that would feel really weird – almost like I was trying to get attention like the religious leaders in Jesus’ day.
All organizations keep a record of who sends them money. There are also electronic records of money sent through transactions in charitable giving accounts. And there can be times when somebody has to know about your giving, especially if you want that money designated for a certain project inside the organization. Even then, you can keep those “in the know” to a minimum and ask them to keep the source of the funds confidential.
Of course, you should never give secretively apart from your spouse. Giving strategies and targeting certain causes should be discussed and agreed upon by both parties in the marriage.
Does Giving Always Have to Be Secret?
Are there times when it’s OK to get noticed for or to broadcast ones giving? I’d say yes, as long as the giver remains humble and the focus remains on the cause.
For example, it would be tough to stop an organization from recognizing you publicly for giving. They want to show their appreciation and no amount of “No, please don’ts” on your part is going to stop that. If they want to recognize you, then fine. Accept it graciously and deflect the attention away from yourself and back onto the organization.
Additionally, you may be supporting a charitable cause like I do here with Samaritan’s Purse, headed by Franklin Graham (see right sidebar). My wife and I financially support their efforts in disaster relief, their Operation Christmas Child ministry and their desire to spread the message of Jesus’ love around the world. Their organizational philosophy aligns with our personal vision of ministry, so I’d want to do anything possible to draw others into supporting their efforts. I have more power to draw people into the cause if they know I’m financially invested myself.
The cool thing is that eventually all of this secret giving to charity will really get noticed. The promise from Matthew 6:4 is that one day “…your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” On that day of reward, those who stand before Him in heaven will get the attention they deserve from the one who matters most. And everyone gathered around you will see it.
Then it will be OK to get noticed for giving. Until then, best keep it a secret.
Questions: How do you fight the urge to get the “pat on the back” from giving? Can the knowledge of how much you give backfire on you? Are there any other times when you might need to let somebody know about giving to charity? What’s your favorite organization or charity to support?