These are dark days, and many people around the globe are victims of natural disasters, tough economic times, and health problems. Most of us want to be generous and support in a way that will do the most good, but when called to contribute to many causes, how do we choose and whom may we trust?
Let's first define what charity is, to be sure we have the right intentions. Websters lists 4 definitions for the word "charity".
1.Love for mankind.
2.Generosity to the needy
3.Organization for helping the needy
4.Kindness in judging others
Next let's look at what the Bible states is most important when giving. The New Testament, New Revised Standard Version, Mathews 6.2 "Concerning Alms-giving" states:
"So whenever you give alms do not sound a trumpet before you."
From the above, we may conclude that charity in its purest form is an act of giving to the needy with love, kindness, and generosity. And after doing so, without boasting about it.
Yet when rich celebrities donate time or money to charitable organizations, individuals or causes, they usually let the media know about it. They seem to seek out the title of philanthropist. It is marvellous that media celebrities and prominent people contribute to charitable causes, but when they become involved in national campaigns of solicitation, I can't help but doubt their motives. Are they benefiting as much or even more so than the recipients of their charitable acts? Does some of what you see on TV just look like a "photo opp"?
Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, for example, have their own foundation, www.gatesfoundation.org/ . They contribute millions of dollars with the goals to end diseases around the globe such as polio and malaria, and to raise education levels in the United States in order to create more opportunities for the underprivileged. They are making some headway on both of these fronts which is commendable. But don't you think this raises public opinion of the couple? Does this influence people to purchase Microsoft products? Do you think they get any tax breaks? In their defense, even if they tried to hide what they do, somebody would find out.
When there is a disaster, Americans always seem to be the first ones to rally and donate millions of dollars to the newest cause. Is the money always used for that particular cause? Go to www.redcross.org/ , and see if you can find accounting of how funds are distributed. The Red Cross does do a ton of good, but some of that money you give goes to administrative and promotional costs.
My concern here is maybe we ought to pause and think before we rush to contribute our precious, hard earned money to a cause, because a celebrity we admire told us to do so. Try this before you write a check to a charity. Check to see if any of your family, friends or neighbors need help. I believe charity should begin at home so take a close look around you. People you know are not likely to admit they are in trouble, but there will be tell-tale signs that will let you know when this is the case. It is often awkward to give to someone you know, but once you do you will know exactly how your money or things are being used, and have the added benefit of knowing that you helped someone, and at a time when it truly mattered.
Also, local food pantries and churches are excellent places where you can go and see the good being accomplished first hand. When you support them, they can let the help trickle down to those most deserving. Many small charities join forces with large charities like the Red Cross. They are then able to work together to target a particular disaster.
In conclusion, if you are blessed with more money than you need to take care of yourself, and your family and friends, then charitable contributions are great. Private, charitable contributions are hugely beneficial to the welfare of our society.