Over the years I’ve devoted two blogs to the topic of charitable giving and how much of our time and money should be spent helping those in need, a concept I often wrestle with. (One could argue that if I spent as much time giving as I do wrestling with the question of how much I should give, I’d be a much better person!) In my writings I referred to the Jewish concept of tithing, the “upper limit” concept of the Babylonian Talmud and the New Testament reading of the Good Samaritan, but I’ve never walked away from these investigations with a clear-cut sense of what I should be doing to help others – only that I should be doing more.
Well, leave it to a pastor to help clarify things. As I’ve discussed in previous posts, I get a double dose of religion as I occasionally attend Friday night services at synagogue and regularly attend Sunday morning services at a Presbyterian church where I play piano. Once again, I’ve concluded that the applicable teachings of Sundays often trump the intellectual teachings of Fridays. At Elmhurst Presbyterian last Sunday, Pastor Lyda offered a concept of giving so obvious that I had a hard time not uttering the words “well, duh!” out loud. Ready? Here it is:
Give to others as much as you spend on entertainment for yourself.
How simple is that?
On the surface, it’s straightforward. If you spend $30 on a movie, allocate $30 to a charity or other cause that’s in need of money.
Ah, but what do we consider entertainment? If you think about it, much of what we spend could fall into this category: electronics, cable, Netflix, internet, sports events, concerts, amusement parts, going out to eat, hobbies, junk food, parties, presents, timeshares or second homes, alcohol, coffee, cigarettes. Last year, my family did what it had never done before: spent a great deal of money (for us) on an all-inclusive vacation to Mexico. Clearly, this falls under the category of entertainment, but a vacation of this magnitude would have to be looked at twice if the cost suddenly doubled to include an equal amount for charity.
Still, I think it makes sense.
The hard-core rationalist might find a way to avoid matching the cost of most of the aforementioned categories. A cycling hobby could be placed under a health category instead of entertainment, or an internet bill could be listed as a necessity. But look at what you spend your money on, and I think you’ll conclude that much of it is inessential.
As we head toward the holiday season, spend some time taking a close look at what you spend on yourself and your family, and consider matching it for those in need. It might do two things: raise your awareness for just how blessed you are, and offer some assistance to make the world a better place.