Dani Johnson is being spotlighted on ChristianPost.com for her role in the upcoming ABC show Secret Millionaire. The premise of the show is rather engaging in that each participating millionaire enters an impoverished neighborhood “incognito” to find unsung heroes and reward them. Dani Johnson turned down the offer to star in the reality series 4 times before finally agreeing. Her reason was simple: humility. She bases her philosophy of charity on the Biblical passage Matthew 6:1-4:
“1 “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 “Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Putting aside any need for recognition from “The Father,” this is one piece of Biblical advice I like and I’ve tried to practice it myself all throughout my life whenever possible. However, I don’t need a reward to do charity. Fact is, material rewards are what ruin charitable acts for me as the act itself involves an emotional reward. Unfortunately, I think by the mere mention of a reward from The Father in this passage has led to abuse by prosperity theology or the health and wealth gospel. These are the people featured on TBN and Daystar Christian programming. While Dani Johnson seems sincere, believers in this theology are no better than lottery players in that they give to get–any emotional satisfaction is not enough. Or in some cases, they give to “store up treasures in heaven” which is still greed on some level (what the hell are you going to do with treasure in heaven anyways, is there a class structure?). Treasures in heaven has since been interpreted as spiritual rewards to make it more palatable, but then what does that mean? A spiritual high, like drugs or spiritual recognition like the brown-nosing kid given a certificate in front of their school?
I do contend that altruism is selfish in nature, as I did mention the emotional (chemical reaction in the brain) reward. When it becomes more than that in regards to religion it seems to have a detrimental effect. Because the people pushing that prosperity gospel are not people who should be receiving your money. They do not manage it properly. I mean half of Benny Hinn’s income goes to hair spray? Wouldn’t the money be better spent by donating to the local food shelter?
Where charity and selfishness often work best is in shows like this proposed Secret Millionaire and the hit Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Everyone wins, as long as the accountants don’t screw anyone over. The contestant gets their fame (more money from endorsements), the TV channel sells its commercial airtime, the advertisers are associated with good feelings and sell more of their product, and the people receiving the money/home makeover get out of a dire situation. Greed works here to everyone’s benefit. The most exploited people may be us the viewers in that every possible button is pushed to get us to cry (thus some of the parodies of Extreme Makeover).
What seems more of an added bonus to The Secret Millionaire premise is the coaching aspect. Dani Johnson wasn’t handed her millions. “From rags to riches is the story of a now multi-millionaire mother of five,” states ChristianPost.com. I think we will have more confidence in her advising deserving people than say Amy Grant’s canceled show Three Wishes where she was to “… lead a team of experts to a small town to help make the hopes and dreams come true for deserving people.”
SIDENOTE: Interestingly enough, it is reported that when Dani Johnson handed the checks to the “deserving people” she said, “This is from Jesus, not from me.” ABC has cut out that line. For advertising purposes I can see why as, again, primetime has to appeal to the diversity of the United States. Now if she hadn’t specified Jesus (the Christian religion) would they have allowed her to say God (broad-based, inclusive of most religions)?
SIDENOTE 2: How come TBN hasn’t gotten on this bandwagon with a show where someone can say, “This check is from Jesus.”? To keep faith with the Matthew scripture they could make it so the check comes from the organization instead of an individual and then show how the money is being used responsibly to build up a poor church or crime-ridden neighborhood. TBN abuses theology and scripture anyhow but it seems like this kind of knockoff would make for a good show in a sea of boring sermons. I suspect they might have problems managing the money as Jan Crouch might need more cosmetic surgery.