I live in northern Utah. There is a very wealthy LDS family here who over the years has donated millions of dollars to various causes. You can see their family surname posted prominently on all kinds of buildings and facilities. Yet, I’m curious why they would do that, in light of the Savior’s admonition: “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 6:1. What do you think?
There’s a number of reasons why a person would want to give publicly. For instance, grandparents may want to instill a sense of giving in grandchildren. They give publicly so that, even after they’re dead, their descendants can see the name on the plaque and know “my family is a family of givers. That’s what my last name means.” By making it a public memorial, the lesson is passed on even without parents making an effort to do so. Similarly, by seeing the kind of places these donations are made, their posterity can see where their values were.
Related to this is the idea of giving to serve as an inspiration and example to others. I may know that one of the donors has an income similar to mine, and by looking at the public acknowledgement of her contribution bracket, I can see that what I deemed was unfeasible may indeed be possible if I were more generous. Her example would lead me to reevaluate my financial priorities.
Sometimes, heads of large corporations will make a public show of their philanthropy in an effort to foster goodwill. Companies are given a bad name by competitors and on occasion by frustrated consumers. At times they are perceived as “out of touch”. Open philanthropy shows that the corporate leaders share some of the same concerns as their employees and customers and can be used to shape an image.
I think these last two reasons are why The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints publishes some of its humanitarian efforts. There’s a perception that the Church is a multi-billion dollar tax-free business that harvests the funds of needy members and spends it on things of little value (as the critics see it). The very public aid the Church gives shows that it is a part of the world community, and the salvation it is so concerned about includes a temporal salvation. It also serves as an inspiration for other people and other organizations to give generously.
That’s all well and good, but why would a person (or even the Church) “offer alms before men” if there is no heavenly reward for it? Let’s read on and see what Jesus says:
“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and they Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.”(Matt. 6:1-4, emphasis mine)
They (and the Church) give openly so they can have the open reward. These public donors are not denied public accolades that come from their public giving. They have their reward and they get what they pay for. Those who do the same anonymously are openly rewarded by God.
What do you give and how?