Jesus said, “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:2-4).
I am certainly not going to argue with the brilliance of Jesus. I come from a long line of “secret” givers, who give generously but refuse to acknowledge this act of generosity. In fact, it seems that much of society has been taught that, in acts of generosity, one should remain as mum as possible. (Note: I am speaking predominantly about monetary generosity. It seems that—if one is volunteering time, space, or non-financial materials—humility is not required in the least. )
Perhaps this stems from an overall societal discomfort of talking about money. Among my circle of friends, I have no clue what the average salary is. I seldom ask about the financial worth or cost of anything, and if I do, I better have good reason, and the question must be preceded with an apologetic and uncomfortable, “If you don’t mind my asking. . .” Talking about money has always been tricky, controversial, and destructive.
But what if it wasn’t? What if we could talk freely about our financial situation? Would it help our relationships or destroy them? Would it tear down boundaries or build up walls?
I suppose these questions all stem from a recent visit to Facebook. I dabble a bit in social media, nothing too excessive, just enough to keep up-to-date on life’s little happenings. But more and more, Facebook and other social media sites have become a hotbed for subtle life-shaming. With everyone posting how far and how fast they ran, how amazing their tropical vacation was, and how many books their genius child read, social media has created a dangerous competition-of-life atmosphere. I want to be able to tap into this destructive force and use it to the world’s advantage. Too much?
I don’t really know what I’m trying to say. I think that much is obvious. But I am continually struck by the pervasive competition that exists between friends and family online, where face-to-face relationships fail to exist. So, what if we created a competition of generosity? If I posted all my acts of generosity online for the world to see, would it inspire someone else to give just as much, if not more? If your Facebook feed was filled with updates of: "Thom just donated his last paycheque to MCC #savedlivestoday #whatdidyoudo?" "Katie was going to buy a designer purse but decided to fund peace education in Sudan instead #priorities." Would you jump on the generosity bandwagon? Does it matter if an act of kindness and generosity stems from an act of spite, shame, or love?
Jesus says we should be humble, kind, and just, but humility seems to be a lost art these days. Perhaps two out of three virtues is good enough?
Now I have to go and update my Facebook status, because I may not have run 10 miles today, but I did donate $_______ to MCC* and I am just as proud. And should be.
*I do not feel comfortable posting this information online. At least not yet. Someone else can start that trend. . . .