Thursday, February 16, 2017

Quiet Generosity

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“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

                                                                                                 Matthew 6:1-4 (NRSV)

Tycoon Mike Ilitch  died recently, and all I knew about him was that he built a business empire on Little Caesar's pizza. This allowed him to purchase both the Detroit Tigers baseball team and the Red Wings hockey team. Some team owners are self-aggrandizing meddlers but Ilitch was considered a model of successful ownership. Both teams had significant moments in the sun under Ilitch.

I'm even more impressed by the story which has emerged in the past few days about Ilitch's quiet generosity toward an icon of the civil rights movement in the United States.

(CNN)Those who knew Mike Ilitch, the Little Caesars founder and Detroit Tigers owner who died last Friday, have spent the past few days fondly remembering his impact on friends, on Detroit residents, and on the sports community.Ilitch also had an impact on the daily life of one of the most iconic figures from the civil rights movement.For more than a decade, Ilitch had quietly paid for Rosa Parks' apartment in downtown Detroit.
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Of course, as a multi-billionaire Ilitch could well afford this kindness, but it is the fact that he did this without expecting recognition is impressive. We've been spending time in the Sermon on the Mount these past few weeks and a passage we won't hear is Jesus teaching about keeping generosity discreet.

I have no idea whether Ilitch knew this passage, or whether he had any religious convictions, but he seems to have received the memo on authentic generosity.


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