“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1–4 NLT)
The Journal of Consumer Research published a paper in 2014 titled “The Nature of Slacktivism” that contrasted token support, or slacktivism, with meaningful support, or “contributions that require a significant cost, effort, or behavior change in ways that make tangible contributions to the cause.” The study goes on to state that “public token support does not lead to increased meaningful support for social causes;” in fact, the study found that people who initially supported a cause privately, rather than publicly, were more prone to increase their support in subsequent, more meaningful areas.
In this era of social media, slacktivism reigns supreme. Yet, striving to make any sort of positive change in our world, or even in our lives, nearly always requires some level of sacrifice on our part. Rather than striving toward activism – contributing time, money, resources, or talent to any given cause – so many of us choose instead to promote awareness by sharing a link with friends, pinning a ribbon on our jacket, or changing our profile pictures. Often this only serves to inoculate us against more meaningful action.
Jesus’s words, as they so often do, strike deep into the heart. If the motive behind a gift or action is to be seen by others to bolster our egos or reputations, then we succeed when we are public about our good deed. Jesus instead calls us to a higher standard that requires us to actively seek out secrecy when giving to those in need. Imagine the far-reaching impact the people of God could have in this world for the Gospel if all of us – starting with you and me – were to put this into practice the next time we were tempted to practice slacktivism.