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Should Christian Business Owners Announce Their Charitable Giving?

  • Chris McKinney Wisdom's Reward, LLC
  • Updated Oct 12, 2023
Should Christian Business Owners Announce Their Charitable Giving?

“But 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” 

-Matthew 6:3-4

If I am a Christian business owner who wants to give a certain percentage of my profits or revenues each year to fund charities and missions, should I keep it a secret? Should my charity work be done out in the open? Should I have press releases that announce to the whole world how much money/time/goods I gave to help others? If I treat my employees extraordinarily well, should I announce it to everyone in order to set an example, and to show my good works?

In my view, these are difficult questions that Christian business owners face.

In Matthew 5:14-16, we find instruction to let our light shine before others, so that the Father will be glorified.

Skip over to Matthew 6:1, and we find caution to beware of practicing our righteousness before others, in order to be seen by them.

Jesus goes on to say basically, that we should not give to the needy, pray, or fast in front of others, in order to be seen by them.

Anyone else confused?

Should Christian entrepreneurs share their acts of generosity or hide them? Which is the best way to glorify God through business?

When I first reflected on these two passages side by side, I was very confused. I pretty much said, “Which is it, Jesus?”

Upon closer inspection, there appear to be several possible distinctions. First, is there a way to let others see my good works, without seeing me, in a way that glorifies my Father? For example, is there a way to do good works through a Christian ministry, such that I remain anonymous, but God doesn’t?

It’s an interesting question, but I don’t think it ultimately leads to a solid answer on the issue as it applies to business owners.

The second distinction is made regarding the motives of those whom Jesus is addressing with each passage.

What are your motives for giving back in business?

When I first had the idea to start a Christian Investing website, I wanted to use it, social media, etc. as a platform to share what God had done in my life. I want people to know that I am different than I used to be… way different. That brings glory to God. At the same time, I knew that I wasn’t supposed to write things just to be praised by other people. This is a struggle that all human beings face. We all want to believe that we are good, and we look for confirmation of that from others.

In Matthew Chapter 5, Jesus tells the people to let their light shine so that others will give glory to the Father. In Chapter 6, he is warning us of a trap that we often fall into, which is to do things so that others will glorify us.

The third possible distinction regards the way in which people were making their good deeds known. In Chapter 5, Jesus seems to be speaking to people who are prone to purposely hiding all of their good deeds. In Chapter 6, he addresses people who are literally having parades and announcing their good deeds with trumpets. Maybe Jesus is pointing out the wisdom in taking a more moderate approach. In other words, don’t hide your good deeds, but don’t be a pompous you-know-what about it, either.

How do you give secretly while glorifying God in business?

Some examples from the recent past may help guide us. Paul Walker kept his good works under wraps, and look how God has been glorified after his death. Paul Walker was not operating or doing his charitable work through a business, but movie stars have personal brands. He definitely could have used his charitable work to promote his personal brand, but he chose not to do that. Had he done these things out in the open when he was alive, the mainstream press probably would have found a way to vilify him for his Christian beliefs. Instead, they are singing his praises in an age when Christianity is extremely unpopular… truly amazing.

Yet another well-known example, Chick-fil-A has always been closed on Sundays in order to give their employees that day off. It would be impossible to hide that fact. But, they could have hid their reasoning behind it. Everyone probably is aware that this policy stems, at least in part, from the Christian beliefs of the owners. Chick-fil-A, to my knowledge, never attempted to hide this reason. They were never ashamed or quiet about their Christian beliefs. At the same time, I don’t ever see them running ads that seek to glorify themselves, such as, “Chick-fil-A: Putting principle before profit since 1946” or “Chick-fil-A: We give our employees better work-life balance than Taco Bell!”

Further to the point about donations, Chick-fil-A doesn’t just donate money to outside charities. They have their own charitable foundation. It would be pretty hard to keep that a secret. At the same time, I’ve never seen it mentioned in their advertising. I had to go to their website to find out about it. They’re not hiding it, but they’re not announcing it with trumpets either.

Is it really about your business?

These are good examples. But, I don’t think we have a solid yes or no answer that applies to everyone. My only conclusion is that I need to strongly consider my own motives and methods before making a decision. If I’m doing it because I want other people to give me praise for how good I am, maybe get some positive press coverage, and maybe a few more sales, I probably do not need to do it in an open way. I need to stop right there and ask God to purify my motives.

If we’re doing it for the purposes of setting a good example and glorifying the Father, I think it’s good to let our light shine. Perhaps of equal importance, the way in which we make it known, or allow it to be made known, will be much different for those seeking to glorify the Father, than it will for those seeking personal gain.

A version of this piece originally appeared on the Wisdom’s Reward: Christian Investment Education blog, and also on Faith Driven Business. Used with permission.

Publication date: June 3, 2014

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