The Publicity…err…Joy of Giving

This morning, as I was preparing to dig into another paper I am writing, I saw a segment on one of the morning news shows about a coat drive being sponsored by Burlington Coat Factory that aims to have a coat for every child in the U.S. (and adults too). The program is a wonderful idea, and I in no way want to detract from the good work they are doing.

However, as I watched the news folks talk about the program, it became fast apparent what the real “goal” was – to sell more coats and promote a national brand. Ben Affleck, the movie star, surprised the set by bringing the first coats to donate from his own family’s closets. After talking about the importance of this program, he tried simply and quietly to put the coats in the bin and be done with it, but the reporter felt the need to turn it into a fashion show. Even Affleck himself seemed a bit ashamed as he remarked that he wasn’t into the fashion of it all, just the utility of it.

The news show then proceeded, amid the background noise of a youth choir singing a Christmas carol, to wheel in 300 new coats from Burlington as a donation. The entire time I felt like I was watching a runway show.

Now, again, I want to emphasize that the program is wonderful – the showmanship is where I have a problem. Though we should not expect anything other than this from the world, Christians are called to behave in a different manner.

Matthew 6:1-4 says,

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 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. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (ESV)

During this season, as with all seasons, Christians are called to have a heart of giving. It is to be our whole attitude, our very nature, to sacrifice for the sake of others. But we are not to become showmen and seekers of accolades. When you give – notice the verse does not say if you give – do so quietly so that neither you, nor the one to whom you give should have any reason to feel ashamed. But above all, give. Give until it hurts. Give until you no longer think of the act itself, but only of the people in need.

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