For it is by grace you have been saved...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Charity by Guilt - One Man’s Rant

I walk into the convenience store to pay for my gas and the clerk asks me, “Would you like to donate a dollar to help feed the hungry.” Somewhat surprised by the question, I said a soft, “Uh, no thanks, not today.” She gives me a disapproving look and takes my gas money. I walk out feeling guilty because they must think I don’t care about the hungry.

Never mind the fact that our church has an ongoing benevolence ministry in which we help those in our community who are struggling; people we see face to face, know the need, and try to offer more than just a monetary “fix.” Never mind the food pantry we have at church to help as well. Never mind the fact that I have no idea what organization the C-store is collecting money for, or who exactly it’s helping, etc. I’m still made to feel that I don’t care about “the hungry.”

Same day. Different store. As I’m checking out with my toilet paper and bag of M & M’s (strange I know, but..), the clerk asks, “Would you like to donate your change to help teach someone to read?” Having just been through something similar I’m less surprised, but still not sufficiently guilty to part with my change.

What I want to say it, “I already pay a hefty amount in property taxes to support the government school, which by the way, my kids don’t even attend. That’s because we are teaching these kids to read at home. Which by the way takes quite a bit of money when it comes to buying curriculum, etc.; which we purchase on only one income since my wife stays home to give those children individualized attention. So actually, by putting this in my pocket I am giving my change to help someone read, thank you very much.”

Of course, I don’t say that. Just another, “Not thanks, not today.” And another shaking head at the insensitive, uncaring, miser who won’t give his money to another unknown organization to do who knows what with.

Now please don’t misunderstand. I know there are some really fine organizations out there who are doing some wonderful things to help folks with a variety of needs. And I know that they need funds in order to operate. But I really dislike the pushy, put-you-on-the-spot method of asking for funds at the local store where we have no idea who these organizations are, what exactly they are doing, where they are operating, who exactly is benefiting, etc.

And I don’t like the implication that if you don’t give your dollar or your change that you somehow don’t care about “the hungry” or “the reading challenged.” We actually give quite a bit to various ministry endeavors, as well as involving ourselves personally in some of those. But we’ve become a society that is so fixated on throwing money at problems that I guess this charity by guilt thing works, or they wouldn’t keep doing it.

But here’s a good lesson in stewardship. If you’re going to give to charitable causes, you are much better off giving directly to organizations that you know and trust; groups that you know are using those funds wisely; groups that you know are meeting real needs in the best way possible.

Start with your local church, and find ways that you can not only give financially, but get involved personally. Because ultimately, unless we feed the hungry with bread and follow it up with the Bread of Life, all we’ve done is help someone find temporary relief on their way to ultimate suffering. Unless when teaching folks to read we show them the True Word, all we’re doing is allowing them to fill their heads with worthless knowledge in the end.

And since we’re not supposed to even let the right hand know what the left hand is doing when giving to those in need (Mat. 6:3), then we don’t need to explain ourselves to the store clerks just so we think we’ll look good in public. And if you’re still feeling guilty and feel the need to make a donation, I know where you can send some money to help feed at least four hungry kids and help them to read all at the same time. Just drop me a check in the mail.


Tim A. said...

Enjoyed the article on giving. I appreciate your stand on knowing where it is going.
I also wanted to let you know you might want to change my link. I deleted that one, so you might want to change to or
or you might want to just delete it.

Scott said...

Thanks for the update, Tim. I'll certainly change the link.

Applied Christianity said...

Great article. You forgot to mention the taxes you already pay that go toward food stamps to feed the hungry.