Saturday, 5 November 2011

It's For Charity?

What's your attitude towards charitable giving? I ask because it's an issue that interests me. We all know how good we Brits are at the one off giving, the Children In Need and Comic Relief etc, but do these national events truly reflect the national disposition?
I'm going to suggest that this is one area where we can learn from Christians, because by and large I think they have a lot of things right on this issue. Whilst I jettisoned more or less everything when I left my faith, the one thing I kept is a thing known as the ten percent rule. It's actually not a rule, so no guilt trips are required. It's more of a recommendation that we try to give away ten percent of what we earn. Now of course not everybody can do this, but for those who can have you ever asked why you don't? I know ten percent is a lot, but every time I've thought about reigning it back I get to thinking about who loses out. I am incredibly fortunate; I can feed my family, clothe them, keep the house warm. I don't take this for granted, and I'm under no illusion that everybody can claim this. There's a part of me that wants others to have similar levels of comfort, and I don't think it's merely up to governments to sort this. My selfish side occasionally flares up when I reach the end of the month to find I can't afford something I wanted, and I've grumbled that the extra ten percent would have made a difference. But the moment rarely lingers; I know its selfishness of the highest order, and that the commitment we've made as a family is just that; a commitment. There's another risk in giving however; it's the potential for hubris, for looking at ourselves and being self congratulatory because of what we do. This is a terrible attitude, a really grotesque trap to fall into. You see, I don't thinking giving should be seen as any different than paying the bills, buying the food, or putting petrol in the car. I'd suggest regarding it as an extra is a category error; it should be front and centre of the monthly budget, simply something we do without fanfare. I have an immediate family who I want to care for, and a wider family that I feel I have an obligation towards. I don't pat myself on the back when feeding the former; so why the latter?
Charity, in my mind, just shouldn't be an optional extra, but merely a part of who we are as a species. Isn't it right to be outward looking, mindful of the bigger picture, and contributing  towards the greater good?
One very important caveat; a lot of people who lack financial resources give of their time instead. Fantastic, I say. An even more noble pursuit. What I'm trying to get us away from is the sense that, as George Michael sang, charity is a coat we wear twice a year. I don't subscribe to this position at all. Our ability to look outward is a very real reflection of the content of our hearts.

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