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Charitable Giving When You Are Poor

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Charitable Giving When You Are PoorI have come to believe that if a person cannot give charitably when he or she is poor, then charitable giving will not all of a sudden come naturally once additional wealth is obtained.

I recognize that there are many different ways to help and serve others, and money is only one way.  Some of the best ways don’t require any money at all.  However, in some cases money can also enhance the quality and quantity of the service we can provide.

During my career I have met a number of very wealthy individuals.  Some of these people are very charitable and will likely end up giving most of their wealth away to charity either during their lives or at their death.  I greatly admire people who use their wealth to help others.

I have met other wealthy individuals that give little to nothing to charity, despite their great wealth.  It is their money and they absolutely have the right to do what they want with it.  However, I think they are missing out on a great opportunity to really bless the lives of others, which will in turn bring them happiness and give life much more meaning.

Some people believe that only the wealthy should give to charity.  Some rationalize that they don’t make enough money to be able to give to charity but that if they ever became wealthy they would start giving more.

How My Parents Give

I’d like to contrast these ideas with my parents’ idea of giving.  My mom has told me that she was surprised, when as very poor newlyweds, my dad suggested that in addition to the church contributions they regularly made, that they give $50 a month to charity to help the poor.  My mom didn’t know how they could afford to pay that since they earned very little, were going to have children soon, and were still in school.  But she agreed to do it.

Each year, they increased the amount they gave.  Eventually my dad finished school and started working.  Money was still tight for a lot of years since my mom didn’t work and there are a lot of children in my family.  However, each year when my dad received a raise at work, they would increase the amount of money they gave to charity.

My parents were also very good at involving their children.  They taught us to give 10-15% of our income to charity at an early age, which I have done ever since.  They also were very good at providing opportunities for us to serve and give, which helped us see the joy in helping others and also receive many blessings in our own lives.

In recent years my parents have been very blessed financially.  My dad has moved up the ranks in the company where he works, their home is paid off, they have no debt, and most of their children are out of the house and on their own now.  They have saved and lived frugally for many years.  My parents attribute much of these financial blessings to the fact that they have been very charitable their entire lives.

I remember as a child I once asked my mom how much money they gave to charity each year.  She didn’t give me a number but responded that it was enough to buy a new car each year.  I remember thinking, “A new car?  We have never even owned a new car!”

Charitable Giving Requires Sacrifice

I also remember a lot of times growing up when money was tight.  I still remember the time when I was at my little league baseball party at the end of the season and I was the only kid who didn’t get a trophy since money was tight and my parents couldn’t afford the $7 trophy at the time.  Charitable giving sometimes meant that money was tight and that we had to do without in other areas.

“I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare… If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us… they are too small.  There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”  – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

The annual increases in what they give to charity means they now give quite a bit of money to charity each year.  Believe it or not, I don’t think it is a huge sacrifice for them to give this since they have done it their entire lives.

I have come to believe that charitable giving doesn’t come naturally and easily all of a sudden once someone makes more money.  As income increases, so does spending, many people find.  You can always upgrade to a nicer home, a nicer car, nicer clothes, or nicer vacations.  It is very easy to find ways to spend additional money.  It is a lot harder to become charitable all of a sudden if you haven’t done it all along.

“Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one.” – Benjamin Franklin

If you can’t give while you are poor, you may not be able to give when you are rich.

What are your thoughts about charitable giving when you are poor?  Who has inspired you to give and serve others?  Leave a comment below!

Image: kikkerdirk/bigstock


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