For over a year I’ve wanted to write a substantive post about the contradiction between two of the best-known biblical injunctions, “let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth” and “let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works.” My thought was to approach the issue from a sociological perspective, focusing on the competing notions of behavior modeling. Because I’ve been unable to dedicate the time to study the issue out for myself, instead of a substantive essay you’re getting these half-baked musings.
Why should Christians be called to be “an example of the believers” in only some regards?
If the reason were related to humility or pride then we’d expect that Christians would be encouraged to hide all of their good acts under a bushel.
As someone who thinks our society should be more generous, and less concerned with our own comfort and convenience, and less driven to consume in order to demonstrate our social standing, I wonder why the selfless people we should most want modeled are told to cover their light. If people who served missions, did their home teaching, or married in the temple were told not to let anyone know about it, fewer people would serve missions, home teach or marry in the temple. Because Christians who give to charity are told not to let anyone know, Christians probably give less to charity. They’ve seen less modeling and receive fewer social rewards. Which probably means that the poor of the world are worse off because Christians are rewarded with attention at church when they buy a new toy or show up with vacation stories, but not when they give that money to a needy family.