Some Thoughts On Charity

Let me begin with an apology for no posts in over a week. To be frank, I was in “stumble-home” mode after the Santa season wrapped up. I finished out my year working an early shift to cover for a friend and working way too hard on some projects. The blog just fell to the wayside. So, to the three of you who read weekly, my apologies.

I was deep into the world of charitable giving during the past few months, as a number of my visits are gratis to certain organizations. Also, in preparation for the final Good Neighbor Meal of the year, the cash was flowing out to pay for things we needed. Lastly, there’s a mission trip in the future, and I was trying to round up some donations for our service project.

This led me to ponder charity quite a bit today, especially after my pastor preached a pretty good sermon on moving into the spot God has ordained for you if you want to receive blessings. (My apologies to all the Calvinists in the readership.)

I don’t do charitable things to gain a blessing. I do them because they feel spiritually correct. I’m no saint: I take pay from a number of organizations for work I do as a voice over talent and as Santa. I don’t turn down those checks, because it’s how I pay for the work I try to do in the community. When I do turn down a payday, it’s because I believe in the cause I’m serving, and I can do some unique thing for them that’s really expensive. It’s the kind of stuff that God told us to do in the Bible.

This also means that when some of my customers “overpay” me for my visits because they know I do a fair amount of charitable work, I try very hard to put those funds to the best use possible. Sometimes that’s handing out gift cards to the homeless so they can get a hot meal. Sometimes it’s slipping some cash to an individual I know is struggling financially – anonymously. Something about praying in closets versus the street corner.

Today I had two experiences with charity that were noteworthy.

The first was one of my church members had several dozen turkeys that he was distributing to members of the congregation that needed them. When the need wasn’t as great as he’d thought, it looked like they might go to waste. I grabbed eight of them and muled them over to the Good Neighbor Center, stuffing them in the freezer. I know the meals program and the tutoring program both need the food. It also makes me comfortable in sponsoring another meal – the main course is already “bought and paid for” so to speak. Seemed like a perfect fit: Church A couldn’t use them, so they gave them to worthy cause B. No waste at all, good people benefited, it all worked.

The second was the kind of charitable activity that I’m betting God despises: wasteful greed. There is a group that I used to be associated with that will take any donation you offer without a thought as to putting it to good use. Consequently, most of the things they take in are either hoarded, go to people with no need, or are put in the dumpster on Friday afternoon when they’ve gone stale and inedible.

Today I had reason to be in their neighborhood, and witnessed it happening first hand. Because I hadn’t seen it for some years, I was surprised by the anger and sick feeling I had while I watched the boxes of food being hauled in to the building. It was painful knowing it was just the same as ten years ago when I was the guy hauling it in from the donors. (I actually got in trouble with the leader of the group because I told the donors to find a different home for one of the two weekly donations: we couldn’t even properly use one day’s worth of donations. The man in leadership got mad because he’d rather throw it out than let someone else have it and then he be short if a need should arise.)

In our society, we whine a lot about how stingy corporations are, and how everyone needs to do more. I know for a fact that companies like Cub Foods, Panera, and a host of others donate huge amounts of food that they can’t sell. Good stuff. Stuff you would eat.

And yet, when it goes to the vain, the prideful, the greedy, and those led by something other than true charity, we see no benefit from the charitable donation.

I’m sitting at the computer tonight, questioning my own charitable motives. Just writing about it makes me a bit uneasy: feels like I’m the Pharisee praying on the corner. But maybe, just maybe, I’m on the road to Damascus and I’m pointing out the Pharisees that sent me.

I’m not sure, and I need to pray some more on this topic. Mainly because I’m feeling very judgmental and petty writing this blog. But if you’re in leadership in an organization that takes donations, please take some time right now to ponder how you handle those blessings that God is bestowing on you.

You may need to move a step, or two, to get out of Lo Debar yourself. I know I’m examining my map location right now.

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