I recently received an issue of an e-zine (it’s like a magazine that comes through email–great for not cluttering up your coffee table) that gave special attention to the decline in charitable giving. Overall giving is down. A confidence indicator that tracks people’s willingness to give is at a new low. Some organizations that exist only because of charitable donations are cutting back on staff, which is often the last resort because they’re already operating on a shoe-string budget.
As if the entire world being linked to our “economic downturn” (really this should read “gross financial mismanagement”) wasn’t enough of a downer, people who already operate on a meager subsistence must scale back even more because there are clogs in the system at levels higher up where people are cutting back on items that seem like luxury. Okay, I know some people may feel like they need the latest Dolce & Gabbana handbag to go with their Christmas gown, but that’s really discretionary spending and definitely not a need. However, most people wouldn’t think twice about buying a 12 oz Coke for a dollar (or two or three dollars if it’s a sporting event) because they think that’s meeting a need. Clothing and water are definitely both needs (at least for those of us who have winter weather like we do in Indiana, for those in the tropics I suppose nudity could work year round…) but how we meet these basic needs is entirely up to us as individuals. We don’t need to buy that coke.
What I see as a major problem with consumer confidence falling and the resultant effect on charitable giving is this: we can scale back with slight changes in our lifestyle and feel little to no effect on our well-being, but widows and orphans and the world’s poor can’t. How do you cut back when you have no income? How can you make wiser decisions with your money when people stop giving? How could an orphan possibly avoid hunger and homelessness when an orphanage has to shut its doors because it can’t pay its bills because those of us who used to give money to charities would rather scale back on giving than buying stuff to meet our “needs”?
These are questions I’m wrestling with this year as I look back on the best year financially for Rachael and I, look forward to taking a Christmas vacation, and think about the few, expensive gifts under our tree this year.
My answers are complex and dive deep into the understanding of consumerism, debt, inflation, mass-marketing, personal finance, and faith. I won’t spare our readers all the details since I plan on expounding on these topics over the next several weeks. But I will end on this positive note about Hope.
This time of year is a reminder that Jesus came to this financially mismanaged, fraudulent world to show us love and make a huge one-time, settle-up payment on our monumental debt. The account he drew on to make this payment is very deep and more than sufficient to cover for our blunders. No bankruptcy courts. No foreclosures. No debtors prisons. We just have to acknowledge our mistakes and agree to sign over our debt to him, fully surrender our lives to his wise and loving care, and acknowledge that when we’re in charge we tend to bounce checks and borrow more than we can repay. In return, we have a full lifetime ahead of learning from the master how to live abundantly and give to others out of the overflow of what He’s given us. This is how orphans and widows can be taken care of. Through God’s love, flowing through me, as I learn to create wealth and give generously to those in need, others come to surrender to His care and repeat the process.
I’d love to hear Obama compete with Jesus’ original bailout plan.