[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.]
One of my constitutional heroes is a little known figure named Thaddeus Stevens, whom Fawn Brodie correctly called the Father of the Fourteenth Amendment. And one story I read in one of his many biographies told of how once he was playing cards with man about to be married the next day. It wasn’t poker, but like in poker gambling was involved and Stevens cleaned the young man out by several hundred dollars. After the man left, Stevens then went and found the bride-to-be, and gave the money to her, instructing her not to tell him he had given her the money—to make up some story on how she happened to find the same amount—figuring that it would be best if the young groom took this incident as a cautionary tale. The fact we know this story at all is proof she broke that promise of confidentiality.
The other night I was watching O’Reilly when Ann Coulter declared that conservatives were more charitable than liberals. And this morning I learned that Lawrence O’Donnell issued a challenge to see who could donate more to a given charity—conservatives or liberals. And I thought I would take a moment to remind people of something that Jesus once said. From Mathews 6:1-4 in the “God’s Word” translation:
1Be careful not to do your good works in public in order to attract attention. If you do, your Father in heaven will not reward you. 2So when you give to the poor, don’t announce it with trumpet fanfare. This is what hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets in order to be praised by people. I can guarantee this truth: That will be their only reward. 3When you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4Give your contributions privately. Your Father sees what you do in private. He will reward you.
Now, of course not everyone reading this is a Christian. I am not even sure O’Donnell himself is one. But let’s talk about it as philosophy, and not necessarily the Word of God. Isn’t what he is saying making some sort of sense? If you are really being selfless about something, than making a public display of it takes away from that. I mean for several years now you hear of “Santa Claus” types giving away massive amounts of money and no one even knowing who they are. The latest version of that is a man who left $100,000 in a Salvation Army Kettle, and no one knows who did this. These people understand that principle that Jesus spoke of better than Ann Coulter does, who takes her charity as an in-your-face achievement.
Now, in that Biblical passage, Jesus is not saying it is a sin, per se, but merely that when it comes to visible acts of charity, what you gain on this Earth is all you get. In one translation (I forgot which one), Jesus says you will gain no treasure in Heaven from this, hence the title of this post. So if everyone thinks you are the most wonderful person on Earth, there is your reward. But don’t expect anything from God.
Not that Coulter is unique. When you donate to charity, for instance, do you declare it on your taxes? I know from having set up at least one charity as part of my job (long story) how vital it is to set up the ability to deduct taxes. Isn’t that the same thing? And yes, even publicly asking people to donate to a worthy cause probably counts too, so that makes me a violator of this rule, as well. And like I said, none of this is sinful, but perhaps before you make a display of your charity, you need to ask yourself why you are doing it. Would you be better justified in keeping it to yourself?
So on one hand, I think Coulter didn’t represent herself or conservatism very well by turning charity into a cheap bragging point. By comparison, O’Donnell and O’Reilly (with his famous charitable work) are defensible in their conduct because by doing what they do, they are doing concrete good in the world. I don’t think that it suddenly means that you will be building “treasure in heaven” but you can be satisfied you are helping others, justifying your departure from Jesus’ well reasoned dictum.
Update: Here I will depart from the rule again and say, hey, if you like what you read here, or even lament “When Patterico will be back to blog on a regular basis and send this idiot Aaron Worthing packing?!” why not click on the right hand column and donate to our host? And let me quote this from his bleg way back when:
This is important: if you’re going to use a PayPal account funded by cash, you can use the top button. That is best because I get every cent. If you are going to make a one-time payment that is funded in any way by a credit card, you have to use the second button. PayPal takes a small amount off the top, but that’s the nature of the beast. I can’t accept credit card donations made using the top button.
And I want to point out that third button, which is my favorite. It is a subscription button, which allows you to set up a recurring monthly payment of $9, which I am calling a “subscription.” I’ll take any donation, but I’d really encourage people to “subscribe,” as that would give me some idea of the resources available to me on a monthly basis that I could hopefully use to keep the site up through an Instapundit link, just once! A couple of you have already become “subscribers” without my mentioning it, and I really appreciate it. (I can also accept recurring payments funded by credit card at the third button.)
Patterico has been giving to you for years, asking very little in return, which strikes me as a form of “in-kind” charity. You might consider returning the favor with the cash version.
And no, Patterico didn’t ask me to say this. In fact he feels like he doesn’t deserve it, an opinion I respectfully disagree with.
[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]