Friday, March 13, 2009

More on Charity

Adam writes in the comments to this post:
"Give a man a fish feed him for a day, teach a man to fish feed him for life" A cliche that should echo more and more with the choices we make to fix starvation. I do not see long run benefit to donating to charities to feed children unless those charities teach the citizens of those areas how to use their land to create food for themselves. Basically, I would rather donate money to a cause that would work toward remedying the problem forever, not remedy the problem til next month.


That's fine, and is Adam's choice. But my point is this: donate now. Too many people are waiting until they believe they are economically comfortable enough to do something. This, to me, seems like a psychological cop-out. "I want to do something, I really do...just not today."
It's similar to "I'll quit smoking tomorrow." or "I'll go on a diet tomorrow," or government's favorite "We'll tighten the emission standards for vehicles...in 2020." People make long-term promises too often because they know that they'll never be forced to uphold them.

People are starving now, people need an education now, oppressed peoples need the global community to act on their behalf now. Charity given when convenient is not charity. Charity must be given at any opportunity.

Going back to Adam's comment, we are shown the pure genius of Jesus in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Did the Samaritan see the long-term benefit in clothing the beaten man laying on the side of the road? Did he think about the idea that if he kept his two silver coins, he could later invest them in a school for people who might later go into law enforcement and stop highway robbers from doing to others what was done to the robbed man? No. The Samaritan made a single, instantaneous act of charity without thought on the personal value of that act. We who consider ourselves Christians too often forget that the point of Christianity is to follow the teachings of Jesus. Not to be adjudicators of what is and isn't good, effective charity.
Clearly, the Parable of the Good Samaritan strikes the critical thinker as a dumb way for a Samaritan to throw his money away, waste some good clothes, and not behave the way a Samaritan should. But the point Jesus makes is that charity must be given when the opportunity presents itself, not when it is convenient and valuable to the donater.

But I do not mock Adam's decision to invest in education of the under-privileged. But I challenge Adam, and people who believe as he does, to do so now, instead of later when you think you will be better able to afford it.


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4 comments:

Benjamin Dueholm said...

Did the Samaritan see the long-term benefit in clothing the beaten man laying on the side of the road? Did he think about the idea that if he kept his two silver coins, he could later invest them in a school for people who might later go into law enforcement and stop highway robbers from doing to others what was done to the robbed man? No. The Samaritan made a single, instantaneous act of charity without thought on the personal value of that act. We who consider ourselves Christians too often forget that the point of Christianity is to follow the teachings of Jesus. Not to be adjudicators of what is and isn't good, effective charity.

Amen. This is a real challenge, in many ways, but you've touched on the main thing.

Wellsy said...

We still have to make sure we're intelligent with our charity. The Samaritan acted directly, therefore he was able to see the effect of his action immediately; donating money to a cause via an organization is indirect charity. How that organization handles your money is something you should know about -- does 80% of it go toward the paychecks of those in the organization, and only 20% go toward buying food for the starving?

So, if you feel you can't trust an organization, it's better to keep your money and look for another way to help.

Furthermore, while immediate assistance to the individual is what the Good Samaritan story speaks of, no real change in circumstances for the population as a whole will manifest itself without some sort of long term planning and work. Just because we do one doesn't mean we can't do the other.

adam said...

I guess the Sudanese don't want any help at all. This is one of the main problems with African poverty. The Governments are so corrupt that out of all of your donations, very little actually goes to help the starving people.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,509355,00.html

B-I-L said...

Adam makes a great point. I would argue that if we eliminated government Foreign Aid all together that it would actually help poverty around the world. The concept of international welfare has not worked any better than domestic welfare. After trillions spent these programs are so bad that the Kenyan economist James Shitkwati has been telling the West "For God's sake, please just stop."

It would be with the elimination of government foreign aid, the eliminated the taxes that are used to generate the government aid, freeing up more money for the private sector, that more money would be spent directly to international poverty instead of through corrupt government hands that steal this money.

I do not argue eliminating private donations like you originally seek; I actually agree that is where the problem is solved, but only when coupling it with the elimination of government foreign aid.

In 2006 American citizens voluntarily gave 3 times more to help people overseas than the US government did. If these citizens were allowed to keep more of their money, more money would be donated directly to the cause and not pass through corrupt government hands.