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Bad Charitable Giving?

How can charitable giving be bad? We need more of it. It can make a huge difference in the good works performed by charities and in the lives of those who are served by charities. This is what I mean.

In Matthew 6:1-4 (NIV), Jesus said: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Increasingly, it seems to me, charitable giving is done for all to see. Many charitable organizations have categories of named givers. Big givers are honored with their names being placed on buildings. All kinds of organizations and communities name a “philanthropist of the year.” Churches offer “naming opportunities” to members who donate big bucks: part of a building, a classroom, a common area, a new addition to the church, an outside garden, pews, etc.

Of course, those in charge of charitable fundraising argue that this kind of recognition encourages others to make gifts and pledges–to give to the needy. That’s probably true. And I would never call someone who allows recognition for his or her gift a hypocrite.

Another passage of scripture comes to mind, however. In Luke 21:1-4: “As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘Truly I tell  you,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.'”

The widow wouldn’t have made any kind of charitable giving list. Except to Jesus, she was “anonymous.” Maybe that’s the name we should use.

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