The “Joker/Jester” Asks Christian Fund Raisers…
For those of you who have not been following this series, the “joker” or “jester” is (my term here for) a person appointed within a church or Christian organization to ask hard questions about traditional beliefs, practices, customs, habits of that church or Christian organization. He or she is promised by the leadership that there will be no negative repercussions for asking such questions. He or she can ask anything, so that the church or Christian organization can reconsider, re-evaluate itself from time to time. Like many organizations and institutions, perhaps like all of them, churches and Christian organizations can suffer “hardening of the categories” (the term “hardening of the arteries” used to be used for dementia and other ailments of old age). The joker or jester is expected question things taken for granted by the church or Christian organization.
Within most institutions now, the “fund raisers” are called “development officers.” Ten years from now the favored title will be different. I have taught in three Christian universities and all three had highly effective development officers. Their job is to go out and raise money for the institution or organization. Some churches also have designated and even paid development officers.
Were I a joker/jester here is what I would ask a Christian development officer and his or her “bosses” (administrators, board members, etc.): Have you read Matthew 6:1-5 lately and, if so, do you tell potential donors that if they get any credit, praise, glory for giving to the institution they will not get a reward in heaven for doing so. Their reward will be the credit, praise, glory they get from people who see their name(s) on a plaque or over a door or on a sign?
I did actually ask one Christian development officer this question and he or she (I want to avoid pointing a finger at the person) was very puzzled by my question. I had to tell him or her what Jesus said as recorded in Matthew 6:1-4. The development officer was befuddled and benused by my question. I received no response. I didn’t expect one. And were I really the joker/jester I have described in this series, I would have asked the top administrators the question. The development officer would surely have to notify them if he or she were to begin doing what my question suggested is the appropriate Christian thing to do with a potential Christian donor.
*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*
Two things ought to be noted about this question. First, Jesus was very clear about the matter. If we take his words recorded in Matthew 6:1-5 seriously and at face-value, he was commanding his disciples and other followers, and by extension us, his contemporary disciples, to give in secret and not allow any temporal, earthly reward to be given to us for giving to the cause of God’s kingdom. (No, I’m not contradicting myself here; I argued earlier that we should not use the phrase “Build God’s kingdom.” I did not forbid asking Christians to contribute to God’s building of his kingdom. A mark of intelligence is grasping subtle distinctions!)
Second, Jesus clearly believed in, as therefore should we, heavenly rewards. I grew up in American evangelical Christianity in the 1950s and 1960s and there was then still much talk in evangelical church circles about rewards in heaven. I fear most contemporary American Christians don’t even believe in that. Yet, the New Testament teaches that and that was believed in and taught throughout church history by Christian teachers and leaders.
So the joker/jester would also ask a church or Christian organization or institution if they believe in heavenly rewards, as Jesus did, and, if not, why not? Where has that belief gone? Why has it mostly gone away whereas it was previously a prominent doctrine among Christians? (John Calvin has a chapter section on it in Institutes of the Christian Religion.)
So what do we do when we accept gifts for the growth and continuation of God’s work of building his kingdom without telling the givers that a reward in heaven awaits them if they give in secret but not if they allow their names to be attached to the gifts in some public manner? We might be robbing them of a heavenly reward that, presumably, would be much more blessed than earthly “praise of men.”
Ever since this dawned on me as I was reading Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), I have winced every time I have seen a donor’s name on a church or building (or whatever) in a Christian institution. I think to myself “That person is going to miss out on a reward prepared for him or her by God the Father in heaven.”
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