1 "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.IN THE COMMENTS: People offer various interpretations of the scripture and note that you can post the amount you gave anonymously at the website Glenn links to. I respond:
I'm not purporting to interpret this scripture and won't argue about how it should really be read, but I think there is a scruple about calling attention to charity that some people might be hardcore about. Posting even anonymously on a website that is only about advertising charity could be taken as wrong. I note Jesus sounds rather hardcore about it and puts the stakes very high.UPDATE: A reader writes:
I agree that posting the number can serve the independent good of encouraging more donations. But why doesn't Jesus mention that?
The Matthew quote on your blog attacks Jews (i.e. those who go to synagogues) as hypocrites when it comes to charity. In fact, anonymous giving is considered the highest form of giving in Jewish tradition (see the writings of Maimonides) both in order to save the recipient from the burdens of embarressment or obligation to the donor, and in order to ensure that the real motivation is charity and not self-aggrandizement.It seems to me that Jesus is part of that tradition then. He's not condemning Jews in general (and, of course, is himself a Jew). He's criticizing anyone who uses charitable giving to show off in various public spaces — "in the synagogues and in the streets." Clearly, doing the same thing in a church or in a secular building or on a website presents the same problem, and clearly, simply being someone who goes to a synagogue is not itself the problem.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Despite the wording of that update, I do realize that Maimonides lived after Jesus. An emailer writes:
Regarding your post on anonymous donation today, you may be aware that Maimonides lived 1000 years after Christ, and as a secular philosopher, was as likely to have been influenced by Christian thought as anything else. Be that as it may, Maimonides, and not the Old Testament, is the most-commonly cited source for Jewish doctrine that anonymous donation is to be valued above others.
It seems to me that anonymous giving is a fine ethical point. I can see why religious and secular teachers might arrive at it independently or by agreeing with each other. I'm afraid if it were pushed in modern America, it would tend to result in people giving a lot less. It's part of our culture to have telethons and celebrity appeals and things like that. I can't really picture a move toward some austere new form of virtue. We do things in our political, showbiz, pop culture way. There's Oprah at the Superdome, and Travolta's flying in with supplies. That's America! I'm not really trying to correct everyone.
The emailer continues:
I acknowledge that there is a purpose to publicizing certain aspects of charity - peer pressure encourages charity. However, I am troubled when charity becomes one more form of divisiveness - an example of which was Ann Coulter's (reported) recent remark that New Yorkers would be slow to reciprocate to the Gulf the help showed them.
Mmm, yeah. I'm not out there looking for it, but I could imagine the blogosphere turning accusatory. The righties are giving more than the lefties! And some would defend that as useful in drumming up more contributions.