The Reminder

The Reminder

Volume XXXVIII, #45: The Value of Quiet Benevolence

  1. An irritable brother who always kept some grievance or issue loaded, called a meeting with the preacher and the four elders of the local church.

    He leapt right into his complaint, arguing that all five brethren made a good living, drove late model cars and lived in nice homes, yet, he argued: "You don't ever share your good fortune." His audience listened patiently and then after the outburst, one of the elders said: "How do you know we do not share?" There was no answer. Apparently the agitated brother assumed they didn't, or wanted to believe they were miserly. The elder calmly explained, putting an end to the event: "God does not expect us to prove to you or to anyone the extent of our benevolence. In fact, the larger amount of one's benevolence will not be known on earth." In support of this, he read Matthew 6:1-4, and the meeting ended.

    The story illustrates, among other things, a common misunderstanding of individual benevolence. The purpose is not to satisfy witnesses, elicit the applause of men, or prove anything to detractors. One's sharing ought to be so private and unpublicized, when the right hand gives, the left hand has no idea. It should be as Harriet Beecher Stowe once wrote of someone she believed had the spirit of Jesus. She said of this person, that "He had a habit of quiet benevolence," doing more good silently than was common of most people in their public charity. [Life and Letters of Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1897]

    I read a few years ago of a mystery unfolding in the world of college fund-raising. "During the past few weeks, at least nine universities have received gifts totaling more than $45 million, and the schools had to promise not to try to find out the giver's identity," (AP, April 16, 2009). I have no idea how this story developed; it was not, to my knowledge, followed up with additional reporting (except perhaps to the IRS). It may turn out that some individual or group of individuals are engaged in quiet benevolence, determined to avoid the typical praise of public, ostentatious giving.

    Are you a quiet giver? There is rich spiritual value in this kind of giving. Value for you and the recipient, having this truth connection: "with such sacrifices, God is well pleased." (Hebrews 13:16, see also Matthew 6:1-4)