Daily Office Readings – Gospel ( Mark 6:1-6,16-18 )
The other day, on my Facebook feed, I ran across a video that had a title somewhere along the lines of “Man pays rent for needy family. See what happens next.” The story was an uplifting moment where people who were not expecting anything got something for free, and were more than pleased because it took a load of stress off their minds. At the end of the video, you felt great for the family, and you had warm fuzzies.
These are the kinds of action that we would love to see more of in the news. People doing good things for their neighbors.
And being recognized for it, of course.
I admit that I was happy to see an act of generosity like this, but the fact that the event was filmed from start to finish left me feeling some doubt about whether this was scripted or not. And it left me with the distinct feeling that I was supposed to hold the person doing the good deed in higher esteem now.
In other words. I felt like I was watching a marketing campaign.
And I may very well have been. After all, most everyone on social media these days hopes to become an “Influencer” or raise their follower count. Everyone is interested in maintaining their “brand.”
Now, I’ll admit, I’m no stranger to social media, and I like to post pictures of the things I’ve made with my hands, or the food that I’ve cooked (that’s what Instagram is for, right?), because I too would like people to think I’m a pretty cool human being.
There’s just something about filming myself doing a good deed that raises my hackles, and I can’t get over the idea of doing it, and I think it has a lot to do with how I was taught about today’s Gospel reading:
“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.”Matthew 6:2
Given that so many people on social media are managing their own personal brand by treating their life as a marketing gimmick, it makes sense that they would want to be seen by others. And they have received their reward. I mean, I certainly felt great for the needy family that got their rent paid, and I felt like the person giving away the money was doing a great thing too.
But I’ve forgotten the name of the person who gave the money away. I’ve forgotten the actual title of the video they posted, or the name of the family that got their rent paid.
Everyone, including the viewer, got some happy feels out of it, and then the moment passed.
They received their reward. And the reward was fleeting.
On the flip side of this, is someone like Mario Salerno, who told everyone of his tenants in New York to stay safe, take care of their neighbors, and wash their hands. He also told them he was waiving rent for the entire month of April on all 80 apartments (200-300 renters). All he did was put a note in each of his properties with a message to care for one another.
It wasn’t Mr. Salerno, but one of his tenants who contacted the news to tell them that Mr. Salerno had done this kind deed for everyone. And then the news got interested, because this too is a happy story of charity and kindness.
But there weren’t any cameras filming Mr. Salerno putting up the notices, there weren’t any cameras following him around knocking on doors to tell everyone that he was being kind to them. Just a note on the entry ways, and kind thoughts to his neighbors.
Since I read that story, I haven’t forgotten it or the name of the landlord.
He did something entirely because he felt it was the right thing to do. It made him feel good. It made him feel like he was doing the best for others.
And in the end, he also got recognition for what he did, even though he didn’t pursue the accolades.
“But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”Mt 6:3-4
Mike is a jack of all trades, master of none. He’s a data analyst, programmer, and loves to cook. If he doesn’t have his face buried in a book or is staring blankly at a computer screen, you can find him on a motorcycle, enjoying the ride.
Mike holds a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary.