Thursday, September 22, 2011

public private

I remember when I was a child going into the city with my mother. As soon as she stepped off the bus she would march up to one of the inevitable flag day ladies who were shaking their boxes; she would deposit a small coin; and then take one of the sticky label 'flags' & stick it on her coat.
'And I'll take one for him too,' she'd say, with a nod of her head toward me. As we walked away she'd say:
'Now we have our pass; the rest of them won't bother us for the day.'
Her main concern was not the charity in question - it was being able to walk the streets in peace! That's the closest I've ever come to the kind of public alms-giving for display we read about in Matthew's Gospel today!

But really, it seems almost quaint to hear instructions about doing one's alms-giving, prayers, & fasting in private, rather in public for show. Whatever about alms-giving, there's not too much danger of people trying to impress with public prayer and fasting these days. Quite the opposite. People are more likely to tell you how they never pray; and of those that pray, many will never fast, not even in the seasons of Lent or Advent

However, if we leave aside the bit about the public display of these virtues, which was clearly a problem in New Testament times, there remains the instruction to do these things. We should give to those less fortunate, we should pray, we should fast. It might be good to do it in public these days, to encourage others. Not crazy displays that are just for show. But quietly, reverently, & unashamed. Perhaps only publicly in the sense that you will quietly tell others that it is something that you do - your friends and family, maybe, or even others in your church. But if not in public, then in private. And in public or private your heavenly Father will see and reward you.

No comments:

Post a Comment