I’ve spoken before about my general dislike of Comic Relief (see here and here). Though I made some comments specific to Comic Relief as a grouping, several were more broadly applicable to charity in general. Particularly, I questioned the inherent goodness of non-specific charitable giving and the basis on which we consider it appropriate to give to charity at all.
It bears saying, I am not wildly impressed by either those who only give to charity because somebody does a thing nor those making much of the thing they are doing. If you’ve always wanted to jump out of a plane or climb a mountain or run a marathon, just pay for it yourself. If you want to give to charity, find one you like and give without waiting for someone to do something you deem worthy of your cash. It feels a bit like the modern version of practising your righteousness before others and doesn’t seem to be that concerned with letting one’s left hand know what the right is doing (cf. Matthew 6:1-4).
But none of that is what I want to talk about here. That is just background on why I’m perhaps not all that sympathetic to the thing I want to discuss even before we address it. Leaving aside the rightness and the wrongness of running marathons for charity, why do so many Christians choose to do these things on a Sunday with the dubious defence that ‘it’s for charity’?
Now, just to be clear, I’m not advocating a legalistic Sabbatarianism nor view of church membership that means there are literally no reasons you can ever not be in your particular local church. I, much like Calvin, don’t really care which day per week we rest or meet together (see here for my view; here or here for Calvin’s). But I, also like Calvin, want to take seriously the NT command ‘not to forsake the meeting together of yourselves’ and several broader principles around making the Lord and his people a priority and making this clear (see here).
The broad question is this: what do we want to prioritise ahead of the Lord’s commands? The more pointed questions are, is it really legitimate to forsake the meeting together of ourselves (which the Lord commands us not to do) in favour of running a marathon, albeit for charity? Is that justification a legitimate reason to sideline meeting together? To perhaps ask the question a bit more provocatively, what reason have we got for it being a good exchange?
My concern isn’t so much that people are doing this (let each be fully persuaded in his own mind). It is that few seem to have bothered meaningfully considering the issue. Again, to reiterate, it’s not a concern about these things happening on a Sunday. It is the frequency with which people seem not to mind foregoing meeting with God’s people in favour of this sort of charitable endeavour.
Maybe I’m missing something. I’m quite willing to hear that I am. But on what basis are we willing to sack off what God commands in favour of something that he quite obviously doesn’t?