You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
Most of us grew up knowing there are a few topics one never talks about in public. One of those topics is money. It’s considered impolite to be curious or to share details. So what’s a woman to do if she wants to share the love of giving with her friends? Won’t she bump up against this well-known social rule?
Here are a few important insights offered by John Rinehart in an article exploring if Christians should talk about their giving.
Jesus said, “Let your light shine”
In the very same sermon, Jesus also said, “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
The call to “not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” is a wise principle, not an absolute for every circumstance. According to Jesus, sometimes our good deeds should be public and known “before others” in order to give God the glory.
Secrecy is not the answer in every situation. Our fear of sharing our good works is the equivalent of lighting a lamp and putting it under a basket. The question we need to ask ourselves is: What would bring God the most glory in this situation, to be known or anonymous?
A.B. Bruce, a Scottish theologian, offers a great suggestion: “Show when tempted to hide, hide when tempted to show.”
If your motives are about being recognized, be careful. But if you’re hesitant to be seen by others, you’re probably a bright shining lamp that needs to be put on a stand.
Jesus publicly highlighted generous people
Jesus himself announced the generosity of others. He publicly praised the poor widow who gave her last two copper coins (Mark 12:41-44).
Jesus also publicly announced the generosity of the woman who anointed him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment. He said, “Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her” (Matthew 26:6-13).
Lastly, Jesus spoke about his own generosity, saying, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). And again, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
The Bible names generous people
Generosity is the work of real people, who choose to step forward in faith and give. And the Bible sees fit to acknowledge them by name.
Zacchaeus is specifically described as being “a chief tax collector and was rich.” But the beauty of his story is that through an encounter with Jesus, his view of money instantly changed and he publicly announced, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And how does Jesus respond to Zaccheaus? Do you remember? Does Jesus say, “Shh. Zaccheaus, you shouldn’t talk about these things!” No! Instead Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:1-9). The transformation in Zacchaeus’s heart was evidenced by his new relationship with money. It was good that Zaccheaus talked about his giving.
The Bible names many other generous people too:
- Mary, Joanna, and Susanna are called out for providing for Jesus’ ministry (Luke 8:1-3).
- Paul’s patron, Phoebe, is specifically named to the church in Rome (Romans 16:1-2).
- The Macedonian Church is highlighted to the Corinthians for their example of generosity (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).
- The Philippian Church is acknowledged for their generous concern for Paul’s needs (Philippians 1:3-5, 4:14-18).
- Gaius is thanked by the apostle John for his generous hospitality to a few traveling preachers (3 John 5-6).
Telling the stories of generous people doesn’t nullify their heavenly reward otherwise the Bible wouldn’t do it.
The Bible records specific amounts of money given
There’s a way to speak generically about generosity, not mentioning amounts given, but surprisingly we see in the Old Testament that Nehemiah and David both get specific about the people’s generosity.
Nehemiah writes, “Now some of the fathers’ houses gave to the work. The governor gave to the treasury 1,000 darics of gold, 50 basins, 30 priests’ garments and 500 minas of silver. And the heads of fathers’ houses gave into the treasury of the work 20,000 darics of gold and 2,200 minas of silver. And what the rest of the people gave was 20,000 darics of gold, 2,000 minas of silver, and 67 priests’ garments” (Nehemiah 7:70-72).
David did the same thing with the offering for the temple in 1 Chronicles 29:6-8, concluding that “the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the Lord.” Their hearts were rightly motivated and they gave to the Lord.
There are times and ways we can talk openly even about the amount of our giving without falling into the trap of the hypocrites, desiring to be praised by men.
We need models of generous believers
We naturally follow our examples, whether they’re good or bad. And as believers we need examples of generous men and women who are following Jesus. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are good examples of philanthropy, but how does Christian giving look when it’s distinctly motivated by the gospel?
We wouldn’t know if Gates and Buffett were all we had. Without models of generous believers we’ll follow worldly models.
One reason Christians are not as generous as we could be is because we’ve had so few models of generous believers. I am convinced that more of us need to let our generosity light shine.
The next generation needs encouragement
Generosity is a spiritual gift God gives (Romans 12:8). And I believe there are many Christians who have been given the gift of generosity and don’t even know it. For them to discover and grow in this gifting, most wouldn’t even know who to talk to.