Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) across the globe are well known for seeking publicity for their project activities.
However, one tends to wonder when churches and faith-based organisations (FBOs) join the media chase.
In his teachings on alms-giving and charity, Jesus Christ teaches against seeking public approval and praise, especially in religious duties.
In Matthew 6:1-4, for instance, the Christ teaches that “what we do must be done from an inward principle, that we may be approved of God, not that we may be praised of men.”
This passage cautions alms-givers against hypocrisy. Jesus Christ teaches that hypocrites have no promise from God as they did it to be seen by men.
Jesus Christ is quoted in Matthew 6 verses 2 and 4 as saying: “So, when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honoured by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. Give your alms in private so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
This sermon was directed at those who gave to get the admiration or praise of men.
In order to make a clear contrast with those who give hoping everyone would know how much they give, He instructs that no one should be informed how much you give: it is between you and God.
“When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you,” teaches the Bible in Matthew 6:3.
However, it would appear that majority of alms-givers do not feel appreciated if journalists, especially television reporters, did not capture their donation ceremony.
Some churches and FBOs have, at times, delayed or cancelled donation of relief items to the poor because the media, especially the television crew, did not make it on time or failed altogether.
Ironically, all the latter-day apostles and preachers who seek media coverage for their charity work are aware of this precondition for giving to the poor.
The question then becomes: Why do they seek media coverage?
Reverend Father McDonald Sembereka of the Anglican Church once told the media that it is the commercial route that many churches have taken that is the driving force behind pastors’ love for publicity.
Sembereka acknowledged the fact that “we [pastors] are repeating the very tendencies Christ rebuked of people of those days”.
“We tend to act as anybody else does which is a total departure from what Christ Himself commanded us to do. We tend to forget what Jesus said as clergy and want to be as the Pharisees and Sadducees did,” he observed.
Whereas the practice used to be associated with latter-day [Pentecostal] churches, Sembereka feared that even the so-called ‘mainline churches’ are imitating this approach for fear of being perceived as inactive.
Reverend Father Dr Henry Saindi of the Catholic Church said there are three righteous practices—giving, praying, and fasting—which are supposed to be worship rendered to God.
“These must never be a display of self-righteousness to gain the admiration of others,” Saindi cautioned.
“According to the Jews, these were three great cardinal works of the religious life, three great pillars on which the good life was based—almsgiving, prayer and fasting.
“Jesus didn’t dispute that. What troubled Him was that so often in human life the finest things are done from the wrong motives. Jesus condemns the motive and not the deeds. Wrong motive means no reward from your Father,” he explained.
He added: “You cannot expect to be paid twice, if therefore you take your reward in the applause of men, who give you a high character for generosity, you cannot expect to have any reward from God. You ought to have a single eye to God’s accepting what you give and to have little or no thought of what man may say concerning your charitable gifts.”
But the Catholic cleric somehow backed pastors who seek media publicity when carrying out their charity work, saying the spirit and practice of openness, transparency and accountability for the donations received require that pastors conform to the worldly practice.
At the end of the day, the question remains: should Christians conform to the worldly practice for the sake of being seen to be open, transparent and accountable to donors? Who should they aim to please between the donor and God—their Creator? n