Yesterday I blogged about my response to the ice bucket challenge and my desire not to be ostentatious in the way that I give to charity. Subsequently I realised that in writing that I don’t want to be ostentatious and then posting it on t’internet I have been ostentatious. D’oh!
And then this morning in my daily Bible reading the passage that was set was from 1 Chronicles 29, where King David was very ostentatious about his generous donation to the building fund for the Temple and that generosity inspired the people to give generously too.
Hmmm. It’s tricky isn’t it? How do you hold the two in balance?
I think that the difference is that David was in a leadership position and was trying to inspire his people to be generous to the project for which he was responsible by leading by example.
The Motor Neurone Disease Association is a very worthy cause, doing great work to help people whose lives are blighted by this horrible illness. If you are inspired to support them in any way, even by drenching yourself in icy water, please do so. I am not against that at all.
But I am not personally committed to them as an organisation in the same way that I am committed to supporting other charities. And while I am in leadership of a church, it’s not my place to tell people to give to charities of my choice – in our church the charitable giving to other agencies is agreed by the church membership.
But if I am saying that David’s experience is different because he was inspiring people to give to a cause that he was leading, does this mean that I should be telling people how much I give to our church?
Hmmm. It’s tricky isn’t it?
On balance, I don’t think so. Because when Jesus said that we should not be ostentatious in the way that we give to good causes his concern was that people were making the act of giving in public into a virtuous act. It’s almost as if the people he was criticising were gathering a crowd around them as they put some money in the busker’s hat, bought a copy of the Big Issue or put a donation in the collecting tin and then turned around to receive their round of applause. They had turned charitable giving into a self-promoting publicity stunt to raise their own reputation rather than to raise funds.
I want to encourage as much generosity as I can. I hope and pray that our society will become even more generous in the way that we support those who are working in so many amazing ways to improve the life and circumstances of others. I hope that we will do it gladly, joyfully, cheerfully, even hilariously. I hope that we can inspire others to give (and sometimes by our own example).
Perhaps too we will reflect on what impulse is within us to want to support and bless others. Why do we give to charities? Is it guilt? Is it a way of salving our conscience? I would suggest that at its best it is an echo of our Creator’s generosity to us.
Be blessed, be a blessing.