I loved going to the Mardi Gras parades when I was growing up. It was always lively and wild. As crazy as things could get, I always looked forward to the fun of it all.
Well-decorated floats inched down the street amidst the choir of party goers. Creativity and skill were on high display. The lights were so bright! I always thought you had to be special to ride a float. Only important people could throw beads and doubloons at the crowd. But in high school I marched in the band and got to be a part of them. Yes, I was a loud part of the noise as I banged my drums for two hours straight.
I used to brag about how my hands would be bloody afterwards. But I didn’t feel anything because the parades were so much fun.
So, I’m asking you to think about parades because of something Jesus said.
Today is Ash Wednesday. A lot of us will hear Jesus say, “Be careful not to practice your piety in front of others to be seen by them” (Matthew 6:1). I can preach that and help make sense of what Jesus wants us to understand. You could, too, I bet.
But The Complete Jewish Bible gives us an image that paints a clearer picture by itself. It says it this way: Be careful not to parade your acts of tzedakah in front of people in order to be seen by them! Tzedakah is your charity.
So, don’t make a parade out of how you’re helping people. It doesn’t do any good for the person receiving your gifts. In fact, your parades only do harm.
How do you parade your charity around? When you give hoping someone else will see how charitable you’ve been. When your concern is whether people know what you’ve done instead of actually helping. When your giving makes you feel more proud of yourself than thankful to God. When you expect others to acknowledge how much you’ve done.
We don’t need those kinds of parade. They’re not fun for anyone. Banging your own drum in that parade isn’t special at all.