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I recently listened to a podcast about giving. In the podcast, the interviewee stressed the importance of thanking people who give to church. He made the point that church is the only place where people give and don't receive any form of follow-up or thank you. People give to lots of organisations, even Christian organisations, and receive a follow-up letter (and receipt), thanking them for their support and partnership. In most churches, we can't do this because we don't know who is giving, let alone how many people are giving. Why don't we know? The usual rationale is that giving should be in secret. The oft-quoted passage for this argument is Matthew 6:3-4:
"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. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
What does it mean that our giving be 'in secret'? I find it interesting that Jesus uses the image of hands again - as he does in Matthew 5:
"And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell."
Jesus isn't arguing here for self-harm, in the same way that in verse 6, I don't think he's arguing that we don't even know what we're giving! The point seems to hit home in the following verse, Jesus says:
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full."
It seems that Jesus is warning against doing things for the reward and praise of others. Don't do things to be seen by men. Do it for the reward that comes from God. Perhaps the argument should be:
"Don't give if you are doing it for the praise of others".
"No one else should know what you're giving".
What do you think? The problem when giving is known to none but ourselves, is that no one can keep us accountable. There's accountability in every other area of Christian life - purity ("looked at porn lately?"), serving ("you've got gifts - why aren't you using them?"), Bible reading ("how are your devotions going?", etc.) - but when it comes to financial stewardship, we enter a 'no go' zone. This is particularly scary when Jesus warns so frequently about the dangers of money, greed, and being rich to ourselves, but not towards God. I'd be interested in your thoughts. Should we encourage people to share what they give, or even as a start, when they give, for the purposes of thanking people, and keeping each other accountable?