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Opinion

When giving is smart and when it isn’t


  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Nov. 21, 2022 - 6:24 PM

When giving is smart and when it isn’t

The Newnan Times-Herald

Whatever your faith or denomination may be, or even if you have chosen neither, you are likely aware in a general way that Jesus Christ encouraged giving.

He spoke favorably of giving to the poor — though not because he disapproved of wealth or the wealthy per se (sorry, socialists) but for the rather obvious reason that the wealthy don’t need material gifts.

What would we think of Jesus if he had advised, “Give your charitable dollars to those with the largest bank accounts?” We would probably think he was as crazy as if he had urged, “Give your charitable dollars to the government.” And if he inquired of an audience today, “What did you do for the poor?” I think he would be appalled to hear a response such as, “We voted for the politicians who said they would take care of that.”

However, what Jesus said in Matthew 5:42 deserves careful attention: “Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.”

Taken literally, he seems to be advocating the indefensible. Giving anything and everything to anybody who simply asks for it is a surefire prescription for evil outcomes. One would quickly lose everything, much of it to bad people who would put the proceeds to some very bad purposes. And the sucker who gave it to them wouldn’t even be able to care for himself and his own family.

Was Jesus advising us to be terrible stewards of our wealth by giving even to the undeserving, the slothful, the degenerate, the thieving and the deceitful? Of course not. That would run afoul of other positions he or his closest disciples took.

Jesus asserts in Matthew 7:10 that a good father would never give a serpent to a child. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10, the Apostle Paul urged a rule that would revolutionize modern welfare: “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” In 1 Timothy 5:8, Paul condemns the able-bodied who refuse to provide for their own families, which of course one cannot do if he gives everything away to whoever wants it.

Jesus was encouraging thoughtful generosity from the heart — not blind, indiscriminate, self-destructive giving that would defeat the purpose of giving in the first place.

Gifts and giving are an alternative — indeed, an antidote — to the compulsory, false charity of the welfare state. If you inherited a million dollars and decided to help the deserving needy with it, the last thing you would likely do is cut a check to a government welfare department. Not even socialists, progressives and other welfare statists do that — just check the “Donations” line in the federal budget if you have a microscope.

If a charity proves to be ineffective or corrupt, its donors vanish. When a government program squanders public money and perpetuates social problems across generations, it usually gets more tax revenue.

Giving to a worthy cause is often an expression of love — and who can make a credible case that the world already has all the love it needs?

When you give this Christmas season, be thoughtful about it. Give wisely. Give lovingly. Give generously. Give to people and causes that will make the world a better place.

Lawrence W. Reed, a resident of Newnan, is president emeritus of the Foundation for Economic Education. His most recent book is “Was Jesus a Socialist?” He can be reached at lreed@fee.org.