Photo courtesy of Wix
In Part I, we saw how Americans use the excuse of holding people accountable as a way to mask a secret contempt for the poor and needy in our society. We also discussed the underlying beliefs that motivate our contempt. Now we will consider how this contempt produces a self-centered form of giving.
I have witnessed this type of giving most often with large non-profits entrusted with helping the “less fortunate.” Because of the secret contempt held by the people these organizations ask for donations, campaigns have to be created on the foundation of:
Popularity (Think of the Red Cross and Haiti)
Pressure/Guilt (Think of the campaigns by various hospitals at the checkout line)
When philanthropy is motivated by any reason other than a genuine concern for the receiver, it does more harm than good. For example, I was once in a transitional housing program for homeless families. The program worked with several donors to provide Christmas gifts to all the families in the program. The prerequisite was that all families were required to plan their day around a breakfast during which these generous donors (often masked as volunteers), in addition to a local news station, were present. Quite bothered by this, I discussed my concerns with the program manager who informed me that in order to receive any Christmas assistance that year, I would have to attend this breakfast. Because I did not feel comfortable with the idea of being filmed and sitting around eating breakfast with people I did not know, I opted out of assistance that year. Now think, if this philanthropy was motivated by a genuine desire to provide gifts to a family in need, would that desire also invoke the need for a news crew? The need to parade families around a gym for news coverage as you watched secretly behind the scenes? One sure sign that a person is committing an act of charity from a pure place is that they will treat others as they would have someone treat them if they were in the same shoes. The popular counter to this: ‘Well, I’d be happy to let someone film me getting free stuff and eating free food if that’s all I had to do to get it!’ but if you had a choice, would you really? Remember, Jesus said, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them*,” not “In all things make others accept only what you would accept if you HAD to.” We are not talking about extravagant giveaways of electronics or family vacations here. Reflect on the thought that most times, the items that are given away to assist families during Christmas are items that they need, not simply things that they want. Giving someone something they need should be something that we are willing to do at any time, and we should always strive to do so in a way that preserves a person’s dignity. Isn’t that what you would want someone to do for you?
*Matthew 7:12, also known as “The Golden Rule.”