Reader Counterpoint: Why Your Favorite Charity Shouldn’t Be You

by Antonio Fortunato

I would like to offer my comments on a guest article published on this blog awhile back regarding why we should not give to charity (Donate? Humbug! 8 Reasons Why My Favorite Charity Is Me).

I think the writer has made a decision on charitable giving for reasons that may be completely opposite to the idea and spirit of giving.  Charity is defined as an act of giving, not coerced and not expecting anything in return; an act motivated by the desire to help those less fortunate than yourself.

I will now address each of the writer’s points, in the order presented in his guest article.

1.  “I give to charity indirectly through my taxes.” This position is held by many and is often cited as a good reason to not give to charity.    The author of the article and others who hold this opinion rationalize that they indirectly make charitable donations through paying  taxes.  I submit that taxes are required by law, paid out of an individual’s responsibility to live within the law. One may only choose to disobey the law and live with the consequences.  Paying tax has nothing to do with charity.  Paying tax is the responsibility of a person who lives in a civil society.  In fact, there would be no such thing as “charitable needs” if the taxes paid covered all needs in our society.  Taxes and charity are at the opposite end of the definitional spectrum.

2.  “Charity adds up over time.” The idea that one should not give to charity until one has taken care of oneself is contradictory to the idea of helping others.  As your blog constantly tells us, the human condition rarely is satisfied with enough.  Under the writer’s theory on this point, those in need would rarely receive help from charity as the “givers” could first have to decide they have “enough”.

3. “Charity promotes dependency.” This is an interesting rationalization of why this individual does not want to help others.  I believe he is trying to say I will help those in need by doing nothing.  He is suggesting everyone in need is somehow just taking advantage of those who help them.  There is no doubt that may be true of some people, however, if one has a heart for his fellow man, one would look for areas of need and would help.

4.  “The money I spend on charity may not be wisely spent by the recipient.” I agree, however, once again this is the author’s own rationalization for his desire to keep it all for himself.  Considering even the poorest American is wealthy on a global scale I would challenge the writer to find ways to assist his fellow man and not judge whether the recipient must be perfect in the writer’s eyes before he becomes worthy of the writer’s assistance.

5.  “I am not the only one who does not donate to charity.” Once again, the writer is so determined to keep everything for himself he has chosen the lowest common denominator.  I would challenge him to seek loftier things for himself and his fellow man who may be in need.

6.  “Charity may not be there when I need it.” Another interesting reason to not help others.  Is the paraphrase of his position, “I would consider charity if it has a guaranteed return for me?”  I challenge the writer to go back to the beginning and review the definition of charity.

7.  “It makes sense to donate my time instead.” As the saying goes, time is money.  Clearly, the author has spent a lot of time to come up with the positions he holds on charity.  I submit the writer should consider charity as a way for him to help others with their basic needs and not consider charity as a challenge to protecting the writer’s basic wants.

8.  “I won’t be rewarded in the after life for helping others.” Wow, if you look at the author’s sixth point, our writer is thinking of charity as a sort of investment that should have a guaranteed financial return for him.  This particular point seems to say that even if there was an earthly guarantee for him, that would not be enough; before he lets go of that hard-earned money of his he needs some kind of contract granting him a reward in the after life.  At least we seem to know he believes in an afterlife.  Seeing that he shared his belief in the afterlife, I must respond to that aspect of his point.  I know there are many different religions; we are all free to believe whatever we wish in this regard.  I am a Christian, maybe the writer is too, I don’t know.  Summing up Christianity in my own weak words would be: Christianity is not the same as Santa — it does not reward goodness.  Instead, its premise is we all are imperfect compared to a perfect God and, as a result, can never be good enough on our own merits to warrant an after life with God.  God in his own wisdom gave us the free will to mess up as much as we like, but at the same time offers us an after life with Him if we are only able to admit we are “mess ups” and believe Christ is the only Son of God.  Simple, the choice we all have is to believe it or reject it.

In summary, it seems to me, the article is not a list of why one should not give to charity, but is instead a list of why the author chooses to not be a charitable person.  The article portrays what one would expect from the typical small child if we lived in a world in which infants had their own earnings and resources.  I think every parent knows children learn to say the same few words very early…”Mama”, “Dadda”, “no” and “MINE.”   Parents also know how difficult it is to get preschool age children to share.

There’s A Better Way of Looking at Charity

I would suggest an alternative way of approaching charity for the writer.  Consider that everything you have is not of your own making: you did not choose your family, you did not choose the country you were born in, you did not choose the neighborhood you grew up in and you did not choose the opportunities and circumstances that came your way.

Certainly we can all look with some satisfaction to things we personally accomplished including responsible decisions and hard work we may have done, but we should all keep in mind none of us are solely responsible for our success.

I would encourage the writer to do the following: discover a real need outside of himself that he is passionate about, find a way to give directly to that need, and stop thinking that if he cannot personally solve that need in its entirety, then he should not lift a finger to help.

Photo Credit: stevendepolo

8 comments to Reader Counterpoint: Why Your Favorite Charity Shouldn’t Be You

  • All good points. Anyone who counts on #1 as an argument completely misses the difference between voluntary and coerced.

  • The author of the first Humbug post is wrong when he says there will be no reward in the afterlife, if he’s talking about the Heaven described in the Bible. According to that description, Heaven will be a place where there is work to be done, buildings to be designed, art to be produced – but on a much grander level, as each person there will be perfect, there will be no greed, no shoddy work, etc. The projects and programs and organizations of heaven will need managers and leaders, and those who have been responsible with little on Earth will be made responsible of much in Heaven, and those who have been responsible with much on Earth will be responsible for even more in Heaven.

    Is keeping all your $$$ the best management of your resources here? Biblically speaking, no, giving away everything is – but that’s a large pill to swallow for most people, even for me.

    Great expository on Heaven is a book called Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright – it blows our misconceptions of Heaven as a place where we float on clouds with tiny wings and harps out of the water.

  • Candy

    Great job, Antonio! :-) I think you blew away every point from the original misguided article. When we can afford it, I feel giving at least a little to charity is an important obligation we all have to society.

  • Jessie

    This article did little to refute the points of the Humbug article. In fact, Antonio does not provide any contradictory information at all. He simply says that while the original point may be true, it’s not the “correct” way to look at things. Who is to decide what is “correct”? Seems pretty subjective to me. While I appreciate that this is simply his opinion, I would have preferred a factual discussion of the benefits of charity. This did nothing to sway my opinion on the matter.

  • Jo

    “…the article is not a list of why one should not give to charity, but is instead a list of why the author chooses to not be a charitable person.”

    Excellent point, Antonio!

    Also, as pointed out, not one of us is where we are solely because of our own efforts – or lack thereof. We did not choose our family, country, neighbourhood, opportunities or circumstances, all of which Antonio listed. We did not choose our talents, our IQ, our time in history, or our health – physical or mental or emotional.

    All of these things significantly affect our ability to succeed in life, and at the time of our birth, we can’t claim credit for a single one of them.

  • It’s almost impossible to have some kind of accountability when you give to charities. I may or may not give to organized charity (I usually don’t) but coming from a third world country, I am of the opinion to give directly to the individual recipient.

  • Angela

    This rebuttal makes more sense to me.

    I have a small number of charitable organizations that are near and dear to my heart, and do give to my employer’s fall campaign (The United Way) as well, as it supports a lot of good work in the community, though the pressure exerted through the campaign is heavy, and quite competitive. (see today’s post)

  • [...] Penzo with Why Your Favorite Charity Shouldn’t Be You  I love the counterpoint [...]

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