“You can’t support them all can you?”

Let me start by start by confessing that I am writing this to myself as much as to anyone else, and particularly to those of us who call ourselves Christians. It covers the challenging topic of giving money. Often we say, or hear others say something like, “I won’t give to that charity. You can’t support them all, can you?”  It sounds reasonable, but is it correct? Christians believe that Jesus Christ gave everything for us. He gave his life that we might have a rich and satisfying life. We believe that there is guidance in the Bible on how to live such a life. Here are some passages:

“Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.” “When you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

The message appears to be that yes, we can support them all. I was discussing this with my wife after looking at the distribution of income on an earlier post. When would it be OK to say no, we are giving enough? I suggested that perhaps it was OK when our income net of giving was that of the lowest on the curve – the bottom 10%. If we expect people on the bottom 10% to live full and satisfying lives on their income, shouldn’t we be willing to do the same? Elsewhere in the bible is states that:  “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  So how does that fit with “sell all you have and give the money to the poor”? Perhaps it means that if we are unable to give cheerfully to anyone who asks then we need to work on our heart. Maybe we need to teach ourselves to love more. As well as listening to the advice on how to maximise our income, invest in schemes to give high interest and avoid paying tax, we need to be hearing that we can manage on less. We can still maximise our income, but to give more away instead of saving it for ourselves.  See also my post “The Wealthy are Redeemable” Yes, I am sure I am being hypocritical in writing this. But that does not make what I have written wrong. Let’s all ponder this in our hearts and see what we decide to do.

………………………………………………………………………

If you want some ideas, try these links:

http://5quidforlife.org.uk/

http://www.hope4.org.uk/

feel free to add your own in the comments.  I’ll add them here when I get time.

About Minimalist Christian

Phil Hemsley is a graduate of the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the UK. He works for a multinational company in the power industry, has presented technical papers at international conferences and holds many patents. He has published two books, the most recent is "The Big Picture, an Honest Examination of God Science and Purpose". He has lived on both sides of the faith fence. He is married, with two daughters.
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13 Responses to “You can’t support them all can you?”

  1. eddigoodwin says:

    I wonder if this is the hardest thing, to give with a cheerful heart. It’s all very well, loving my neighbour. I can do that, so long as the fence remains strong! But giving my hard-earned cash. Very challenging. I think that the evidence shows that it’s easier to give when you have little. Why is this?

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  2. Mike says:

    I’m afraid you are the author of your own angst, you aspire to a set of ideas that essentially you are unwilling to follow through on, thus creating this conflict

    “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

    This for you and virtually every other Christian is step too far. Yes it’s hypocritical but then you need to ask which set of values is more realistic to follow and then give up the unrealistic ones. Look around and don’t judge people by their intentions but their actions.

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  3. cathyhemsley says:

    Very challenging. Phil and I perhaps do have to seriously up the amount we give. And have cheerful hearts!
    Are Christians who give huge amounts to charity, but not everything they own, hypocrites? Should we judge them because they don’t sell everything?
    Part of the problem, of course, of judging Christians, is that giving tends to be secret so it is hard to see their actions. No-one knows, usually, how much money, time and help individual Christians give.

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    • Anonymous says:

      This isn’t me versus you so please don’t think it is. What isn’t secret is seeing professed christians lifestyles when compared with following Matthew 19:21 – that’s all I’m showing up as a shortfall.

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      • … and that is where Grace comes in. Jesus teaches that we can never be perfect in our own strength, but that as long as we are striving and progressing in the right direction that is what matters – our heart is right, but beyond our ability. Rather like Paul taught that the purpose of the Law was to show man how sinful he is…. So, let’s strive to get our hearts right, so that we can cheerfully give all we can – but not beat ourselves up that we haven’t made it yet.

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  4. newtonfinn says:

    Count me among the guilty and hypocritical on this one. Yes, I’ve given throughout my life, in monetary terms and otherwise, to those whom Jesus lovingly called “the least of these.” But have I given EVERYTHING? Not even close. So here’s the choice presented by the above discussion: (1) quit feeling guilty and hypocritical, lower the standards which I apply to myself as one who wants to follow Jesus, and accept myself as I am–a decent sort of person who does some good things and helps some people and should be fairly pleased with himself (in other words, a Pharisee, in the best sense of that word); OR (2) remain a compromised and conflicted follower of Jesus, who fits the description in Kierkegaard’s immortal prayer, Pattern and Redeemer. The idea of the prayer is that Christ is like a two-sided coin, one side infinite demand (Pattern), the other side boundless compassion (Redeemer). So, faced with the Pattern, the believer strives to follow Jesus, but inevitably fails, falls, sinks, at which time the coin flips, and the Redeemer lifts the believer back up…as the coin flips again so the believer can strive once more to follow the Pattern. For me, the nature of the Christian life–the actual way it feels to live it–was never expressed more powerfully than in this prayer of one of the greatest theologians, often called the father of existentialism. So Mike, I think I understand the practical position you have taken in living your life. You’ll find no self-righteous judgment from me, for I’m in no position to even attempt it. But I hope you at least get a taste of what it really means to believe in Jesus, the stressing and straining of the self to reach higher and higher, coupled with the shelter and support of the arms of the Father and Son when the stumbling occurs, when the shortcomings seem overwhelming…before, by a grace too beautiful for words, we are lifted up and given again the strength and courage “to will to strive to follow” what Kierkegaard calls “the trace of His footsteps” in the Christian journey. I haven’t been able to do the prayer justice in this post, nor probably even managed to quote it with precision by memory, so if anyone is interested, it should be able to be googled. Trust me, it’s a keeper.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mike says:

      I trust you accept that I find no higher authority than humanity and it’s actions far outweigh it’s varied aspirations. Having said that prayer is but a self deception cop out for ones own inaction, but its not my role (nor would I want it to be) to kick away the crutch that provide hope to so many. Apart from this your actions like mine seem quite pragmatic and considered.

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    • newtonfinn says:

      I finally found it. Go to Google Books. Bring up “The Prayers of Kierkegaard,” by Perry Lefevre, my dear old seminary prof. back in the early 1970s. Then scroll down and click on III, which is “God, the Son.” Pattern and Redeemer is the 83rd prayer, on page 99. While you’ve got this book open, you might want to page through it a bit. There are many hidden gems here. All of the prayers are taken from Kierkegaard’s voluminous work and put by the good professor, who himself was a Kierkegaard scholar, into an accessible collection for devotional reading.

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      • Mike says:

        Hmm………. “old seminary prof” “devotional reading” a fascinating picture is emerging. Theology and Philosophy are very different with the latter superseding the former in being open and objective.

        With nearly all christianity plagiarised from earlier belief systems it’s rather dishonest to attribute the NT teachings to just one author – more like a self interest group of spin doctors.

        If I find some time I’ll take look for the sake of it though.

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