Activism > Charitable Giving

Summary. Giving time, money, and possessions to charitable causes is beneficial to the giver as well as the receiver. In some nations, the government will gather taxes, and a portion of those taxes will go toward worthy causes, social services, environmental protection, consumer protection, and peace building efforts such as the Peace Corps. Even so, individuals and businesses typically give above and beyond their taxes in an effort to direct funds toward causes of interest. In 2007, Americans donated over $303 billion to charity, and invested $2.4 trillion in socially responsible investments.

Rich Enough to Give. A common belief is that financial giving is the duty of those who have great wealth, such as Bill Gates. However, a quick study of philanthropists will reveal that some of the world’s most generous people began giving while still in poverty. Of course, not everyone who gives generously becomes a millionaire. However, it seems that generosity is a prerequisite to receiving great wealth. There’s a teaching that proclaims those who are faithful with little will be given more. (Luke 16:10 and 19:17) The greatest act of giving may not be found among those who give the largest amounts. The story is told of a poor widow who donated a very small amount of money, yet it was everything she had. (Mark 12:41-45 and Luke 21:1-4) It’s not how much we give, but the act of giving that is important.

Joy of Giving. Philanthropist Kenneth N. Dayton and his wife began their journey of charitable giving in 1945 by donating $1,250 that year. Over time, they were able to give over 100 million dollars. Ken stated, “For some, giving is only a painful and necessary act forced by societal and social pressures. But not for good givers — for them, it’s a joy.”

Wealth and Happiness. Some people believe their is a connection between wealth and happiness. For this reason, it is feared that through giving away money, they are diminishing their potential comfort, power, and happiness in the world. Yet, in reality, giving brings happiness, and wealth often creates stress. In the film 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama, documentarian Rick Ray states, “Everywhere I’d been in the world, including India, I’d always noticed that the happiest people I met were the poorest. You could go into the worst slums … and see far more smiles on people’s faces than you would see amongst the rich and privileged. There’s an old anecdote that a priest was once asked if he’d rather counsel the rich or the poor. He answered that he would rather counsel the rich because the rich know that having more money does not solve their problems.” In fact, for many wealthy, having more money simply causes more problems.

Wealth and Fame. While some wealthy people are able to achieve fame, wealth isn’t essential for gaining notoriety. For example, the Dalai Lama achieved a Nobel Peace Prize while living on about $10 per day. Such examples demonstrate that a person can do much good without being wealthy.

Giving a Percentage. When trying to decide how much to give, many people find it is helpful to decide on a percentage to give. Here are some sources for advice on this topic.

Giving Ten Percent – Tithing. Michelle Singletary is a regular guest on National Public Radio for conversations about money and she writes the Color of Money column for the Washington Post. Regarding how much to give, Michelle suggests, “It’s hard to put a percentage on it… I tithe, that’s ten percent, but I give over that I give to other charities that my husband and I believe in. I think that’s a good bench mark. The average person in America gives about 2% of their gross income. That’s a good place to start.” [ NPR Audio ]

Giving 90%. Some people have a goal to give 90% of their income. The percentage of their giving increases with their income. In this way, they arrive at a lifestyle and income they are comfortable with, such as one hundred thousand dollars a year, and give away the rest of their money. By the time they earn one million dollars a year, they can donate 90% of their income and still have the $100,000 a year to live on. When the Dalai Lama earned the Nobel Peace Price, he was awarded a large sum of money. He gave the entire amount away to charity. At the time, he had been living on about $10 a day. Many wealthy and well known philanthropists became wealthy while giving away 50% of their income.

Biblical Teaching on Giving. Within the Jewish Bible there are two well known examples of giving tithes on income. The first is from Genesis: “Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.’ Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” (Genesis 14:17-20) The second example is from Genesis 28:20-23, “Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.'”

The Source Will Be Blessed. There is a general principle that the area of life you give from will be blessed with abundance and strength. This principle is easily tested, and most people who test it find that it is true most of the time. So, for this reason, it is good to give from the various areas of your life that are needing strength.

  • If you give of your possessions, you will not lack possessions and the possessions you have will require less maintenance.
  • If you give of your time, you will feel as though you have more of it. You’ll be getting more done in less time. You’ll find that less of your time is wasted on unexpected events and time wasters.
  • If you give of your strength, you will be given greater strength and health.
  • If you give of your money, you will have financial stability and move toward abundance.
  • If you give of your business, volunteering of your professional expertise, your business will be blessed.
  • If you are in a relationship with someone, and you both intentionally give of yourselves and what you have, your relationship will be strengthened.
  • Families that are united in their giving and volunteer efforts, are strengthened.

Fasting From Money. Fasting is a practice that strengthens the area of your life from which you are fasting. Going without food for a day, or two days, strengthens and exercises willpower and self control. Silent meditation is the act of fasting from thought. Giving financially is the act of fasting from money, at least some of it. It allows you to trim back on the financial “fat” in your life and get by with a little bit less than you earn. This engages the internal willpower to say no to purchases and expenses – not because you “have to” but because you choose to. Making a choice to live on less, even 5% or 10% less, represents a huge step toward financial freedom (freedom from financial bondage).

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