29 June, 2006

Watch Me Be Fantastic!

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.


At 1:11 PM, June 29, 2006, Anonymous Roger Abramson said...

Luke 18:9-14

At 1:35 PM, June 29, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Yeah, that's the irony in the whole thing that Tim and I were just talking about.

By even saying something about this, I feel like I'm being the Pharisee and holding myself up as more righteous than others.

That isn't how I meant it at all, but it does come off that way. So I perhaps shouldn't have said anything at all.

At 2:11 PM, June 29, 2006, Blogger Chance said...

I think it was a great post. I did not see it as self-righteous in the least. You talked about Christians and non-Christians.

At 2:17 PM, June 29, 2006, Blogger HUCK said...

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.

Hmmmm? Smacks of taxes to me - communism, even.

Tell me, Kat. When did you become a Communist?

Ha! 'jsebel' was the verification word.

At 8:51 PM, June 29, 2006, Blogger John said...

Unfortunately, I don't have much to boast about in terms of my monetary giving, but I go through a version of this dilemna every year when it comes to my mission trips. The first time I went on a short-term mission trip, I promised to write a series of first-person stories about it in trade for some of the vacation days. (That was back when we were family-owned and the publisher was free to do such things.) I worried that I was being self-indulgent, or -- worse -- self-aggrandizing. But the response I got from the stories was remarkable, and has only increased with my subsequent trips and stories.

On the one hand, I flatter myself to say that I am helping open the eyes of the community to the needs of the Third World. I try to be honest about my own struggles and shortcomings during each trip, in hopes that people will understand that such trips aren't for "Super-Christians."

But sometimes I worry that the stories are just me boasting about what I've done.

As you no doubt saw on my blog, I almost ended up as an interview on WKRN in connection with Jamey Tucker's story when it aired Wednesday night. They found someone else, and I was a little disappointed that I missed being on television. But was I looking for a forum to promote missions, or a forum to promote myself?

At 12:39 AM, June 30, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All the people who are tempted to brag about their giving should watch "The Office" Christmas party episode where Michael brags about giving an ipod for a secret Santa gift and ends up ruining the party. I don't mean to trivialize what you are saying, Kat, but it was hysterical and kind of appropriate.

At 9:34 AM, June 30, 2006, Blogger Chance said...

I think John is on the mark. It really depends on your motives. If Jars of Clay just want good publicity, that's bad, but if they want to raise awareness for what they are doing, that's a good thing. There's always a sinful part of ourselves that wants the attention for our good deeds. Like me, when I saved that nun from the speeding bus, or when I adopted that blind-deaf kid from Namibia.

At 9:50 AM, June 30, 2006, Blogger jewels v said...

I remember hearing about the "reverse tithing" done by this author and thinging the 10% he lives on is still quite a bit more than the average american enjoys. 10% is what is required. Anything else should be between that person and God. In the wise words of Forrest Gump, "Momma said that a man only needs a certain amount of money to live on, the rest is for showing off." If the gift is said out loud, it is showing off.

At 11:59 AM, June 30, 2006, Anonymous Roger Abramson said...

K --

I didn't mean it that way. Your post just made me think of that parable. Sorry.

At 2:16 PM, June 30, 2006, Blogger Michael said...

You know in my wacky Bible, I read the story about the widow who gave her mite...she didn't brag but humbly gave what the Lord asked her to give. She didn't expect a parade.....

I think its more about the heart with which you give then giving so you can brag and say I gave the plasma screens.

But that's just me...

At 2:17 PM, June 30, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

I wasn't sure that you meant it that way, Roger, but after my conversation with Tim, I could definitely see how that interpretation could be made. (Tim, I think, meant it that way...)

Obviously I have no business judging anyone for anything, and God alone knows people's intentions.

I just happened to bring JoC into the conversation because Jamey's blog reminded me of all these other instances that taken as a whole kind of trouble me.


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