I was watching a TV chat show the other night. You probably know the kind; celebrity interviewer deposits 3 or 4 other celebrities on a sofa, grills them lightly with safe, pre-arranged questions, all the while hoping there won’t be a monstrous clash of VIP egos.
Usually, the celebs are wheeled in by eager-eyed publicists (I know, because I used to be one!) in order to promote a book, or a film. And sometimes the celebs are there to just promote themselves.
The other night, I watched in a bit of transfixed horror as a well-known US comedian turned up for her sofa slot. She was asked what motivated her and her reply was along the lines of, ‘I want to help people’
‘In fact…’ she continued, ‘I donated my entire salary from the last series to charity’.
This last phrase seemed to be carefully annunciated, almost as though she was giving a cue to the audience, so they would know precisely at what point they were expected to clap. They duly took their cue, the comedian nodded her approval at her own words and then blushed slightly, as though she was surprised by their well-scripted applause.
It was a superb performance.
I was torn. I mean, giving up your salary for a good cause is a great thing. But when did it become socially acceptable to tell everyone?
It’s quite a common thing at the moment. I’ve seen loads of online videos/posts from people who’ve filmed themselves giving their shoes to street children, handing out cash to people in need or some other charitable act. Recently, a ministry leader set up a video and filmed himself giving burgers to homeless people and Facebook nearly exploded. As more people commented on how kind and gracious and saint-like this person was, the further the videos travelled online.
So, in reality, is a little self-promotion such a bad thing? After all, surely the fact that the good deed was done, is all that’s important? A homeless person got shoes, some street children had a great meal. Surely that’s what counts? And if the do’er happens to get some good publicity as a result, does it really matter?
Well, from a Bible point of view, yes it does. In one of his well-known talks about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, Jesus said in Matthew 6;
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”
I think the last sentence clinches it; Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”
In other words, they’ve received the short term praise and admiration of a human audience. Al those likes and shares and comments of, ‘you’re an inspiration’ are really just brief, earthly moments of glory. When people stop sharing the videos and move on to something else, the admiration is over.
Everything Jesus said or did was designed to point people toward eternity, to the greater (more satisfying) goal of pleasing God, and living for a purpose beyond ourselves. He talked about storing up treasures in heaven, rather than on earth and he knew (long before the world was ruled by social media) that ‘earthly treasures’ and accolades can be destroyed or stolen. Far better to focus on the rewards of eternity.
And for Christians at least, we know that while human praise is lovely, (admit it, we all like it!) ultimately, it’s nothing compared to the eternal, private reward of knowing we did the right thing (without publicly announcing it).