To Bucket or Not to Bucket?

During the last week of August this writer posted the following on online:

Let’s see. We were supposed to do Random Acts of Kindness. Then, we were supposed to Pay It Forward. Then, we were supposed to Pass It On. I don’t remember many complaints about any of those campaigns and the endless news coverage surrounding them. Then, someone came up with the ice bucket challenge and that was apparently too much!

So, from now on, people should just shut up and give, preferably anonymously and undercover of darkness. Is that right? Just wondering.

The preceding post was intended to be a good-natured jab at folks taking to Facebook, YouTube and other sites to complain about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge campaign.  Not everyone who read it saw the humor this writer intended, which led to the following thoughts.

OneOldCop is just as tired of the constant coverage and fake or missing ice as anyone. However, the backlash against the campaign is hard to understand. No one is required to participate. No one is required to watch one of the videos. No one is required to do anything related to this challenge. Still, a number of people decided they did not like the challenge.

The backlash even came to the attention of radio talk show host Mike Gallagher. He took the time to discuss the number of people complaining about the challenge on his show. Mr. Gallagher opined that some people felt compelled to attack anything that was fun and doing good.

This writer has a love-hate relationship with talk show hosts such as Mr. Gallagher. They do speak to some interesting issues and questions that one will never hear from other sources. However, they may be a little over the top at times. In this case, it is possible Mike might have a point. Still, there could be other reasons for the backlash and complaints.

One is the misinformation people love to put out about charities. A friend mentioned the other day that he heard only 27 percent of the money donated to the ALS foundation went to research. It is certainly possible the foundation in question spends too much money on administration and other costs, but a claim that more than 70 percent of the money donated does not go to fund or support research is likely a fabrication.

This kind of accusation is nothing new.  A number of emails and posts are circulating claiming, with one or two exceptions, that all major charities are raising money that never helps a soul. The facts are that there were problems with some big name charities a few decades ago. They spent an inordinate amount of money on perks for donors, executive salaries and questionable activities.

It is possible some charities still have skeletons in their closets. Today however, there are several independent groups watching and rating charities. One such group gave the ALS foundation a rating slightly above 90 percent. That would indicate the association is probably not wasting the money donated.

The most unexpected complaint or reason for not being involved came from some of this writer’s Christian friends. They took the position that people, especially those claiming to be Christians, were not supposed to be bragging about their good works publicly. Scripturally, their complaint seems to have some merit.1

Matthew 6:1 states in part, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them.”(ESV) The rest of that passage makes it clear one is not supposed to do good deeds or give money to the needy publicly to gain attention or praise.

At this point, one could engage in a bit of debate over the possible conflict between Matthew 6:1 and Matthew 5:16. That verse states in part, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works . . . “(ESV) However, there really is no conflict. In both cases, Matthew is quoting the teachings of Jesus. Jesus is saying it is the motivation of the person that determines whether the public act is right or wrong, at least that is what this writer gleans from commentaries and sermons on this part of Matthew.

The problem of course is only God can see the real motivation in any act one does. Which brings this piece to a closing question. Are people, especially those who claim to be Christians, wrong to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and make their participation public?

It would be easy to sit back and say they are wrong. As noted above, Matthew reports that Jesus the Christ said that public giving could be wrong. Anyone who gives to a charity or a church and brags about it is wrong and will be judged by God for his sin. However, as Jesus is recorded as saying in Matthew Chapter 5, one should show God’s glory through one’s works. It is a little hard to be the light to a dark world if one moves around like the Midnight Skulker when doing good works.

The publicity surrounding the ice bucket challenge is almost to the point of being ridiculous. Still, it has helped generate tens of millions of dollars that may help fight a horrible affliction. If one wants to participate in that effort and challenge friends to participate as well, who is this writer or anyone else to judge another’s motivation.

On the other hand, using warm water and plastic ice cubes is just wrong. Man up! If you cannot stand the cold, don’t get under the bucket.


1.  In the interest of clarity and full disclosure, some Christian friends object to ALS research because at least some of it is conducted using embryonic stem cells. That is part of a larger debate that is not the subject of this essay.

© S. E. Jackson – 2014

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One Response to To Bucket or Not to Bucket?

  1. richmalpass says:

    I had at go at engaging with this debate too – I enjoyed reading this.

    http://lovelanguageloveliterature.com/2014/09/05/are-you-morally-bankrupt/

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