15 July 2009

Enabling or Christian Service?

Daja talks about her husband Gana, who is a seminary student in California. Gana feels convicted to give money to people who ask him, and it's a testimony to what Jesus is doing in his life. I can tell you quite honestly that often folks in general do NOT give in many other situations not because they're afraid the homeless bum is going to buy a bottle of beer with the money, but because they don't want to give the money. Can we be honest here a sec?

I mean, how often have we heard impassioned pleas from this or that ministry on Christian radio to give? Surely we're not afraid of our $50 contribution getting spent entirely on crack and beer. Maybe the president of "Whatever" Christian Ministry might buy a bottle of beer on a Saturday when he's at the local sports bar eating a cheeseburger (horrors!), but the ministry's books are gone over regularly. There are actually independent auditing associations that do these things, and it means your money has a better chance of being used properly than when you toss a couple bucks into a bucket to "send a kid to camp."

Come on, you have *no idea* who these kids are, and you never thought camp was important, but you just felt dorky passing them by without giving something. It had nothing to do with how generous you were that day. Just saying. I've done that, too. Have you bought their candy bars when you were dieting? Or more likely, I've NOT given, walked by, and just felt badly about it. But I don't think I *should* feel badly if I honestly think it's not where I want my money going.

My point being, we're asked for money ALL THE TIME. It just isn't quite so directly. The "Whatever" Christian Ministry president is just not on the street corner going, "I really need two bucks from you, and five thousand other people, to make this ministry run one more day. Can you help?"

But you hear his plea anyway. You heard him on the radio and you knew he meant that this means YOU, too.

Of course, in a marriage, it's slightly more complicated. You want new kitchen windows and a playground set. You've been talking about them for years. Your husband wants to be able to pay all the bills, and have a little left over for savings "just in case" something bad happens. And you want to be generous. I like to give money to charity through organizations I trust, though when you give your year's giving all at once, you see you are really giving up your new windows and playground area so someone else has a warm bed to sleep in.

And that's ok. Everyone SHOULD have a warm bed to sleep in. Though come to think of it, our giving perhaps should not only be to those who are "deserving." The president of City Union Mission said it well, and I'm going to loosely quote him here. He said that Jesus commanded that we give to the poor, not that we evaluate which poor are deserving of a second or third chance. He commanded that we give to the poor.

I like that. But I also like that when we give to organizations like this, that there are intake people who make sure the money goes to the beds and the food and the dental care. I feel perhaps it's paternalistic of me to feel *I* know better than the charity recipient how to spend the money... but then again, if I'm giving the money for a meal and a bed, I want it spent on a meal and a bed.

Part of the reason I don't like government programs for the poor. Just hear my heart here. YES, I am selfish with my money sometimes. But I want the warm blanket money spent on warm blankets and not some political junket to Argentina. And when I "give" money to my government, I don't feel so assured that it's spent wisely. I can't just change charities the following year if I am unhappy with how things are done.

Then again...

Ok. I have a cute, cute, cute little two-year-old autistic son. My goodness, you could put that little punkin on a poster and he'd probably generate some income for your fave autism charity. What kind of giving do you think 50-year-old autistics engender from the general public? Sorry, but they're just not cute any more. Guess people would rather give to homeless dogs and kittens and find the puppsie-wuppsies a home-sy wome-sy.

Sigh. Maybe I should have more faith in the human family than that. But I wonder what kind of world Woodjie will live in later.

11 comments:

  1. Actually, Mrs. C, I have bought a charity chocolate bar while on a diet- actually on a fast from chocolate. Then I immediately gave it away to someone free to eat chocolate. I bought just to be generous.

    I do give to the homeless person who asks when I have cash on me (which is rare), and I sometimes forgo giving if I sense I'm being hustled or the money is probaby going into the coffers of the nearest ABC.

    But I do not consider myself a generous person. My husband- he is a generous person. One who'll give even if it hurts. And that ain't me. I almost always think twice when my giving is going to be a real sacrifice.

    All that said, I do appreciate the spirit of your post. I basically agree with your premise. Just want to say that while your cynicism is totally understandable, there really are people who have a generous spirit.

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  2. thanks for the linky-love.

    I don't necessarily give to every ministry that asks. But, I think that is different than giving to every poor person who asks. I try to sow my money in good soil when it comes to ministry giving. But when an individual asks me for money, I feel that's different. Don't ask me what the difference is, I haven't thought it all through yet.

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  3. I just remembered another thought you addressed: that of giving to every church, charity and ministry begging for money.

    I feel NO compulsion whatsoever to give to any ministry outside of my church unless I feel a clear leading by the Holy Spirit. If we gave to every organization that asked, no matter how noble, we wouldn't be able to provide for our families.

    And you already know how I feel about the government angle.

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  4. When I'm in a position to give, I do two things--

    1) I do not question whether someone "deserves it" or not. That's not my problem. I did the right thing. The rest is up to them. If I give money to someone, I do it because I believe God put them in my path for a reason and gave me the resources to help. It is deeply satisfying to help as we have so often been blessed by others.

    2) I make it a practice (and it isn't hard) to not look back. To not allow myself to wonder or even hope that what I did would make a difference beyond satisfying a momentary need. If you fall into the trap of believing that your donations (or hand outs, or however you see it) are going to affect a long-term change, then you are likely to be sorely disappointed.

    With respect to ministries: we prefer tangible donations--food, blankets, etc. We do give to our church, but not as regularly as some. I believe "tithing" as it's taught in many churches to be inaccurate and something of a scam. God is not a slot machine.

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  5. I still struggle with this one.

    I wonder what Gana and Daja would do in downtown Portland where homeless people ask you for money every 5 minutes. I am not asking to be snarky. Is it good to give until you have nothing left simply because there is non-stop asking?

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  6. hahahaha! You're funny, Catherine! :-)

    Well, we live in a major city that has a lot of homeless. Los Angeles has an amazing number of street people. In the city of Santa Monica alone there are said to be more than 900 homeless people. (and one homeless shelter with about 130 beds)

    In a 30 minute or less walk in downtown Pasadena the other day (which is what I wrote about in the post that Mrs. C. linked) Gana gave money to two men.

    So, it's not like we live where we hardly ever have to put our money where our mouth is.

    And don't forget that we are from Mongolia (a post-soviet, third world country). Plent of street pepole there!

    I don't know what the answer is for everyone. But, I do feel that Christians need to remember the poor and not close their ears to the cries of the poor. Otherwise when we cry out we will not be heard. (The Bible says so.)

    If someone refuses to give money/food/water/etc. to street people, I think they better find themselves serving in a soup kitchen or donating regularly to the food bank or collecting blankets to hand out in the winter, etc.

    Most people I know who refuse to give to the poor on the street aren't doing anything else either. Which was part of my husband's point. How can we overlook both their spiritual and their physical needs? How can we be justified in doing so? When we have a God who loves the poor and when we have salvation and provision for ourselves.

    You know?

    No judgement on anyone. Like I said before I don't have all the theological answers to the world's poverty problems. But, it is something that we regularly discuss and think on.

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  7. I think my thought on this might be a little down to earth.

    I'm sorry, but if a bum comes staggering up to me and asks me for money, I'm pretty darn sure that he has alcohol breath for a reason. Do you know what I say? Oh, you're hungry? Mcdonalds is next store, I will buy you a dollar burger. But no, I'm not gonna feed your alcohol or drug habit. So yes, I do feed the poor, I just do it in my own way. Half the time, they take the hamburger, the other half grumble and walk away. I guess the latter half wasn't hungry after all. I am glad to give them food though if they truly are hungry.

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  8. We give to support several friends who are missionaries--one has just left for China and one is a Zambian woman I went to seminary with who ministers in Zambia, along with adopting 15 AIDS orphans to raise with her 5 daughters. One of the things we encouraged our churches to do in the past was to keep several paper sacks in the car with a small bottle of water, a granola bar, maybe some chips, and a $1 bill attached to something encouraging from church in each sack. These we would hand out to people begging on the streets. I also used to keep little bags of dog food to give to people begging who had dogs. You are so right about our future as a country and about our desire to give to cutsie charities and not necessarily where it is the most needed. I am sorry about your kitchen windows and if I had the money--I would pitch in for a window/play ground fund! I don't know if you realize that your whole life and approach to raising your children and your love for them is a mission. You are an amazing woman and your children are blessed by you and D. Because of you two they already have so much more than so many others with autism. Thank you for making us think today! Blessings--Bonnie

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  9. That's a totally good idea to keep little packages ready, anticipating the need! I keep water bottles in my car and if I don't have cash on hand (which I frequently don't, as I use my debit card for most purchases) I do hand out water to people. I hadn't thought about little bags of pet food, but that's a great idea, too!

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  10. Ah, this is a rather full can of worms. Some thoughts:

    1. I tithe, but know I need to move beyond this at some point in the future.

    2. I try to always buy something if I can support one of the kids I know (neighborhood kids who are raising money for football as well as my Sunday School kids raising money for missions).

    3. I have purchased a meal for a homeless person, but such opportunities rarely arise (umm... it happened once).

    4. I have a policy to give $20 to any person at my church who asks to help get them to camp or a missions trip... but I don't always get around to it.

    5. While in India we were expressly told not to give any money to the homeless children... and with good reason. So we didn't.

    6. I have heard many horror stories from people--my own sister and her husband--who have given to "Christian ministries" only to discover later that it was all a huge shame and the money was not only wasted but miss-used.

    7. I like to focus my efforts and giving to things that God has placed on my heart as important (like some translation work that I've helped support for a few years).

    8. I've never felt particularly interested in funding a child overseas, but I am trying to bring three kids home from half way around the world.

    9. I do not have all the answers.

    10. Follow the Lord's leading in this.

    ~Luke

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  11. I was out for the day yesterday, but so happy to see a conversation evolve in the comments!! ;]

    I'm not sure I have all the answers, either, or could explain my giving in a way that would make sense.

    I know D is better able to interact with people face-to-face than I am and has done things like buy meals for people. I tend to try to stay away from places I'd be asked for help in the first place. I think I would be easily scammed and would prefer to delegate my charity with people I trust who can pool that money together and make bigger purchasing/power decisions with it.

    I still have a few chocolate bars, though. :]

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Non-troll comments always welcome! :)