Monday, April 29, 2013
Giving in Secret: Should Christians Name Buildings After Themselves?
"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 honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward to the full. 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 done in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (Matthew 6:2-3)
Let's say your local church is expanding its buildings due to numerical growth of its members. Some people in your church want to know that if they give over a certain amount, will there be the possibility of having a building or wing named after themselves. Matthew 6:2-3 come to your mind, however, when you first heard about this. "Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be done in secret."
The world doesn't mind naming structures after itself. Trump Tower comes to mind. When you go to Trump Tower, you're supposed to think of The Donald, but you're probably thinking of his aloof hairdo. Or, you might think of what used to be: when sports teams had stadiums like Tiger Stadium, and the like. Now they have the lamentable banners of "Banks, etc." Of course, some parks are named after its founders, like Wrigley or Comiskey. It's better if its posthumous. But human pride loves worship and adoration, so we name buildings and all sorts of things after ourselves, including ministries (in fact, one of my favorite ministries is indeed named after its now-living founder, Ravi Zacharias, who is a hallmark of both intellect and humility). Such is not in the context of giving, however. There's nothing wrong with naming a business after yourself or a ministry, per se. It might raise questions, but it's not wrong.
What about buildings? Should Christians seek to name buildings after themselves or a loved one as a reward of their giving?
My question is, in the context of giving, does the ethic of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount have anything to say about naming buildings after ourselves, or anyone else, for that matter? Is it impious and prideful to do so? Or, is it no big deal?
So, what if? What if you were in a local church that wanted to build, and you had a lot of money? You've worked hard over the years and built your business (contrary to what President Obama says). You have had a great deal of success and now you want to give back. So, the church needs a new administration wing to make room for more staff and to convert its old confines into more space for education, and you happen to have enough money to pay for it all. You've often wondered if there would be any accolades coming your way in recognition of your service to others. You wonder, "Doesn't the Bible say to give honor to whom it is due" (Romans 13:7)? But then you read the context of Romans 13:7 and realize this text is about honoring the governing authorities regarding taxes, etc. Still, it seems reasonable that the building should be named after you, or that there should be some kind of plaque honoring your name. Isn't it reasonable? Surely: you're the one who is giving, and the building wouldn't be there if it weren't for you!
The answer is simple. Our Lord tells us, when we give to the needy, to do so in secret, and to seek the reward of the Father, not the reward of men. So why do people want to know if there is the possibility of naming buildings after themselves when it comes to giving to their local churches (or schools, or cities, or whatever)? Why not dedicate the building to the one to whom all glory and honor belong? Why put your name on it at all? Jesus says, if you do this, you have your reward--the adoration of men. Jesus tells us to look for the adoration and reward of another: the Father.
Now, you might argue: on college campuses, buildings are named after those who've donated to the university, and it's inconceivable to think of these structures otherwise. Well, what's good for the goose is good for the gander, then? That's a pragmatic argument. Just because the university has dorms named after business moguls, that doesn't mean the Church has to follow suit. The point here is not necessarily whether buildings on church campuses should be named after people who have up and died and gone to glory. The point is: if you are giving to the church, don't seek your own reward by having your name on a plaque or engraved in stone. If you do, you have your reward! Rather, seek the glory of the Father, and your Father who sees your giving in secret will reward you. Do you believe Jesus, or your own reasoning heart?