Saturday, April 21, 2007


The Visiting Teaching message for this month is on Becoming an Instrument in the Hands of God by Caring for the Poor and Needy. While talking to my visiting teachers the other day we got into a semi-debate about the best way to give money to the poor. One of my visiting teachers said that she doesn't feel comfortable giving money to random people she doesn't know...random people on the street. You never know what they'll do with the money; drugs, alcohol, worse? She feels better about giving the money to the church. That way she knows that all of it will be used for good. While I definitely find the merit in that point of view I also think there is more to it.

Jeff Lindsay also recently commented in this topic. He believes in what he refers to as social gambling. "Some are going to waste it. Some are going to lose it. But for some, that gamble you took could turn into a jackpot that could make a huge difference for that day, that week, of even for a life -- the difference, perhaps, between hope and despair." Even if your money only helps a small fraction of those you give it to it would be worth it if it can make a real difference in that person's life.

Basically, when it comes down to it, it doesn't matter how you choose to give. Just give.


Michael D Stout said...

Hi Mikel,

This is my first attempt at commenting on your blog. Your musings about charity are cogent and thought provoking.

I have a somewhat different view of charity. It is as metaphorical as the concept you cited and goes thusly…

I feel that charity should be likened to a potent, possibly life saving, but highly addictive narcotic.. purhaps like morphine. Very positive and useful but filled with personality altering side-effects. If administerted at the proper time and context, lives and psyches can be upheld and prolonged. Doled out without supervision and review, egos, self-esteems, characters can be forever damaged.

Whenever possible charity should be coupled with peronal inititive that tends to ween the recipient from this high unnatural state of being.

All giving should be within this context.

my 2 cents.

Mikel said...

Thanks for posting!

That is an interesting way of looking at charity. My question is: how can we really know what another person’s ‘addiction’ point is? Sure, in some cases it may be somewhat obvious. If we give money to the same person again and again and they continue to abuse the charity time and again, we can assume there is some level of addiction. But other cases aren’t so obvious. There are so many people in desperate need. While some people definitely will abuse charity, call me a naive optimist, but I believe that the majority of people won’t abuse charity.

When it comes down to it, I won’t be held accountable to God for what others do with the charity I give them. But I will be held accountable for whether or not I give charity to the best of my ability.

Michael D Stout said...

I believe the addiction point is absolute. The number of people that would not become addicted this way is statistically insignificant. I truely believe that random cash based donations relieve the donator of the responsibility of assessing the effect of adminisering the “drug”. Conversely, a donation of time or effort is a much less potent form of charity that has oversite build in. So in comparison to an ad-hoc emotionally motivated cash donation, a more institutional or effort based donation is much less likely to be abused.

two more cents.