A few months ago, a church chose to put shoe leather to their study on generosity by giving a pizza deliverer a $1000 tip. A friend of mine was largely heartened by the action, but was a bit concerned about the fact that it was made public (the church recorded the event and put it on Youtube).
Others were not nearly as gracious as my friend, raining down condemnation on the church and piously quoting (completely out of context) portions of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:1-4:
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. 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. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.
More recently, another church did a similar thing, giving a pizza driver over $700 as a tip. Immediately after the event, the driver recorded a video talking about it. He fought to hold back tears as he noted what a help it was, especially considering the struggles he was going through, including “struggling to stay clean.”
I saw news of this latter incident on Facebook and made the idiotic mistake of reading some of the comments. Many of the comments — some by professing Christians — griped about how undeserving this guy was.
That was the whole point.
It’s a picture of the gospel:
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Put in (slightly bowdlerized) modern vernacular, you don’t have to get your feces consolidated before coming to Jesus. The people of this church demonstrated this truth in a microcosmic way.
And, like the first event, there was also more misappropriation of Jesus’ words about doing good deeds in secret. But if you pay any attention to the Sermon on the Mount (from which the text comes) — or for that matter, a big chunk of Jesus’ teaching all over the Gospels — the issue is not the external action, but the state of the heart.
If Christ’s prohibition was merely at an external level, then He was schizophrenic. Because in the same sermon, He said (emphasis mine):
Let your light so shine before men, THAT THEY MAY SEE YOUR GOOD WORKS and glorify your Father in heaven.
The unsaved world already has a gross misperception of what Christianity is all about. When that is the fault of the church, it is proper to call it out. But it’s even more important to “show … a more excellent way.”