Religion roundtable: “Should I give a handout to anyone who asks?”
Sep 15, 2012 | 1917 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Entertaining angels?

The question of giving is not necessarily a religious one, although religious systems do have altruistic expectations of their followers.

Certainly in the Christian sacred text, it is clear that God is concerned with human interactions, to the end that there is no room for second thoughts. We are expected to give our time, talents and resources not only to the community of faith, but also as an expression of shared responsibility for creation with the greater human community.

Since we share responsibility with one another, the question that remains is of the care that should be exercised in our giving.

Economist James Andreoni has published extensively on the subjects of behavioral and experimental economics, altruistic behavior and charitable giving. In describing the personal benefits derived from giving, he coined the phrase “warm-glow.”

But it is possible to blind oneself to obvious personal dangers in seeking to do good. We are expected to exercise prudence by judging the level of abuse to oneself, one’s family and resources. Yes, give; give wisely.

In reading Mark 1:29-39, we learn about Jesus’ giving. He judged that if He did not create a moment of “self care,” the outcry of the many needs would have drowned out the cry for “self-care.”

He will maintain his cause in judgment. (Psalm 112:5; Matthew 25: 31-46; Luke 6:31; Luke 10:30-37; Hebrews 13:2.)

Steven Richardson, 17th Street Missionary Baptist Church, Anniston
It’s good for the giver

It’s uncomfortable: You’re at a traffic light, idling beside a dirty man with a sign, “Hungry Veteran.” You’re on a subway on vacation and a woman layered in coats and scarves shuffles through, hand outstretched. A phone call for orphans. A solicitation letter for cancer. Do you give?

Some always give to individuals, but hang up on the solicitors. Others support charities but shun beggars. It’s rare — perhaps impossible — for someone to give always. And therein lies the problem. If it’s OK to pass by some with their hands out, it’s tempting simply to never give.

“I gave at the office,” we say, convincing ourselves that we’re givers when we only dropped a quarter in the kettle. Also, we start romanticizing the poor, judging the needy and giving only to those we deem worthy or appropriately grateful.

In his epistle, James asked what good it is to say to the needy, “Be warm, eat well,” but to leave them hungry and naked. That’s sheer logic, but it’s also part of a long line of biblical teaching.

The Jews, and later the Christians, were taught to give because it’s as good for the giver as it is for the receiver. A person who hoards up and never shares is spiritually poor.

I need to spend less time judging the needy and more on how I can be a Christian giver.

Michael Rich, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Jacksonville
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