I don’t really understand why charity is such a seasonal thing. During Christmas time just about every shopping center sports a little red booth, a matching kettle, and a bell ringer. You see one, and either ignore it or toss whatever loose change you have available and go on your way, not thinking much more about it. But what about the other 11 months of the year? Are there no poor folks during those times as well? Do they magically disappear? Are there no hungry, no homeless, and no ill the rest of the year?
Consider, if you will, the situation in Haiti. Prior to the earthquake, who took time out of their day to consider the plight of the poorest nation in the western hemisphere? Until the Hollywood actors and Washington politicians filled the airwaves with the tragedy were we roused to action. I’m afraid to tell you kind hearted folks that given the high unemployment, lack of education, rampant corruption, and extreme violence commonplace in the island nation, US dollars will not be a suitable fix to solve the nation’s woes.
A friend of mine recently wrote on his Facebook page, “America: the only country where we have homeless without shelter including disabled veterans, children going to bed without eating, elderly going without needed meds, and mentally ill without treatment – yet we have a benefit for the people of Haiti on 12 TV stations.” He makes a good point. When properly motivated, Americans are some of, if not the most, generous people on the face of the Earth. But I assure you, need is not a foreign concept. Right here in Virginia, we have children struggling to learn to read, out-of-work mothers and fathers unable to feed their families, homeless shivering in the cold, night wind, and free clinics in need of medicine.
So what are you doing to help? Do you donate your time or money to the local soup kitchen, the homeless shelter, or neighborhood charities?
Now before some of you think I’ve gotten all bleeding heart liberal on you, I assure you that charity is neither strictly a conservative nor liberal concept. The true question becomes whether it is freely given through goodwill or mandated by the government. When you think about it, it might seem strange that God grants humans free will. After all, we could all be little carbon copy saints, compelled to perform good deeds 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. By contrast, we have been given the ability to be as generous or as selfish as we choose. But, then again, isn’t the motivation for an act often as important as the deed itself?
When the government mandates either a welfare state or foreign aid, in many ways it usurps the role of God. It is as if they declare, “we in the government know what is best and shall compel our subjects in act in accordance with our wishes. Give us your wallets and do as we say.” God is not a grim tyrant so why should we allow our government to act in such a fashion? Forced giving like that causes numerous problems. First, as the government drains money from us, we feel less inclined to give of our own free will. Why should I donate more? The government already takes care of the poor. Second, as anyone knows from even the most limited understanding of the government, it is rife with inefficiency and graft. Most charities send a far higher percentage of your donated dollar to those in need and have far less bureaucracy. Third, government welfare and entitlements grossly overstep both the Constitution and traditional boundaries of churches and other related religious organizations. Then again, maybe our government is nothing more than a supplier of bread and circuses?
The Salvation Army is right, need knows no season, but it also knows no border. Open your heart, your checkbook, and your schedule to those in dire straits not just in December, but also right now. Remember the gaunt faces on the television, but don’t neglect your neighbor in need next door. So what’s it going to be? Charity is (and should be) your choice, not coercion. I’ll leave you with this familiar quote. “…Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.” Matthew 25:34-36 (NLT)