How willing are we to donate to charity during a pandemic? Mid-year reports showed some emerging trends, but this evolution is fluid. Households that remained employed had surplus income from stimulus funds or unspent social engagements. After upgrading their appliances and remodeling a bathroom or two, most of any leftovers went to Amazon.
Traditional non-profits and churches suffer. I read in the Harvard Gazette that The American Cancer Society estimated a $200 million decrease in donations for the year. It appears funds flowed to COVID-19 research and local food banks or support organizations.
So, how do people get the urge or feel the need to give? Is it guilt? While doing some digging on 2020 giving trends, one author suggested that people default to give and be generous. That writer must have lockdown fever. Human nature is nothing of the sort. Donating money to charity is a lot like that attic space or closet you’ve been meaning to clean out. Unless trained to give or need a tax write-off, we seldom follow through.If you get motivated to give, how much becomes the next hurdle. We don’t want to seem cheap, but too generous is scandalous. There is a biblical answer, but I’m not even sure Christians agree on how to calculate 10% of their annual harvest. The math is only fuzzy because of the human nature thing mentioned above.
In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis suggests:
“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.”
That is a threshold few can meet. Not me for darn sure. Why? As Lewis says:
“For many of us the great obstacle to charity lies not in our luxurious living or desire for more money, but in our fear - fear of insecurity.”
We do not wish to be the one on the receiving end of charity, so we hoard our dollars for a rainy day. We’ll take risks elsewhere, thank you very much.
Some will call me crazy, but my perspective on money is off-the-charts Christian. I believe that my income is a gift from God. He was the one who gave me all the advantages of living in America, born to my parents and our collective spheres of influence. Allowed for me to get an education and stay just far enough out of trouble to become an adult. Then there was the job, after the job, after the job that has made me more than comfortable.
It isn’t because I studied hard or outworked others, and it isn’t blind luck or coincidence.
This monetary theory is a common biblical teaching. One of my favorite examples is from Alistair Begg and is perfect in this Holiday season. Imagine a Dad giving a child $20 to go out and buy dear Mom a Christmas present. On Christmas morning, there is no gift under the tree for Mom. It turns out little Timmy used the money on candy and video games. Sweeping disappointment fills Dad’s eyes. That must be what God feels when we take his blessings and waste them on the latest gadgets or gizmos for our pleasures. He’s not asking us to give it back or even give it all away. He’s asking us to use a portion of it to care for our neighbors. It is not all that much to ask if we’re honest about it.
Giving is important because it is our response to the gifts we have already received. What that looks like is up to you, but I’m guessing it might need to look different from what it did yesterday.
Run in Peace, Rest in Grace