Dec 31 2007
   WEALTH AND GIVING

united we serve old war poster
When I was an active pastor, a friend of mine would send me $500 every year and tell me to give it out to the needy. I did and tried to give it to those who truly would benefit from some "found" money.

I gave a $100 to Joe and Sarah. She was older, had lived alone for years, and in some oddity, had taken in Joe that she found living on the river bank. Joe and Sarah were quite a pair and always living along the edges financially and in about every other way.

I also gave a few bucks to John and Mary who lost eveything in a house fire and after the initial burst of charity were barely surviving with their three kids.

Then I went down to the Tenderloin District in San Francisco and gave the rest out to those on the streets. It made my friend feel good he said. The truth of the matter is that he should have been giving $50,000, not to me, but to some charity.( because he could well afford it.)

Many would say that giving to feel good hardly seems the best motive. Giving out of Duty or in the Christian context because Christ commands it, are two of the best motives.

I guess the only one who would give a thumbs up to giving to make one feel better is Thomas Hobbs, the 17th century English philosopher. Hobbes said he was in personal pain to see the plight of the poor and it made him feel good to give.

Regardless, I can give because of the Christ example or the feel good one, if it helps someone. I still try to keep up the act even though my buddy is not sending me any bucks.

A recent, NY Times Magazine article dealt with the same general issue while demonstrating how giving by the wealthy could eliminate world poverty. Before your eyes glaze over with the idea that this is too lofty a notion, the author, Peter Singer, a Princeton Professor, has calculated in the article what the rich would have to give to eliminate world poverty.

Professor Singer compares wealthy giving or lack thereof (my interpretation) to walking by a shallow pond where a child is drowning. Would you go in to save the child? Well, many wouldn't or they aren't because it would mess up their nice shoes, clothes, etc.; however, think of what you would do if you were wealthy and could wade in and save a life. Why not do it? You would still have plenty of "prems" left as my brother would say.

The comments above are pretty simplified, but Bill Gates, for instance, has seen the "kid drowning." He realized that a half million children died a year from diseases that we had eradicated in America. They still die in the developing third world countries; they don't have the medicines to fight or prevent the diseases. The simple, sad, despicable fact is that the companies that make the medicines have no market in third world countries and so kids die.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, however, is one organization helping by providing funds for the medicines, creating the market; and, as a result, children are being saved. The analogy is that Gates is wading into the water to save the child. It is much more complicated, but you get the idea.

Before we jump into the "nobody is home" look, or think the wealthy will never do this. Warren Buffet did by donating approximately 31 million to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and 44 billion to charity overall.

One interesting facet of the NYT Magazine article is that the good Princeton professor, Peter Singer, only deals with the wealthy. He made one statement that I never thought about. Most of the wealthy would not have their wealth if we did not live in a country where it could be created. For instance, we have peace, we have markets, etc.; therefore, there is opportunity for those like Gates to make money. Since there is opportunity in this country for making wealth; the wealthy owe something for this opportunity. I like it. KT
original posted dec 2006


arc angel


Remembering Susie...

Susan Lynn Autry
September 17, 1960-December 17, 2007





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