Giving Now Versus Giving Later: The Gospel of Wealth Versus Everyday Charity

We only have a limited amount of time on this wonderful Earth, and there are almost countless people around the globe who have far fewer opportunities for a pleasant life than we have. Thus, it’s natural for most people to eventually come to the conclusion that it’s quite important to share the wealth we’ve earned by sharing the resources we have with those that are less privileged in life. If we have an excess of resources while another person doesn’t have enough resources, it makes sense to share those resources.

When we cast our bread upon the waters, we can presume that someone downstream whose face we will never know will benefit from our action, as we who are downstream from another will profit from that grantor’s gift.
- Maya Angelou

Giving Now

Many people argue on behalf of giving money now. I disagree – one should never give money to charity if it endangers their long term financial future. There, I said it.

If you give money to a charity, especially amounts large enough to put your own financial future at risk, you risk having to line up and take back charity money for yourself later on. You’re far better off making your financial ship very sturdy – but that doesn’t mean rampant consumerism is okay. It means pay off your debts and build some long term financial security and independence, so that you’re never at risk of having to eat charitable money yourself.

That doesn’t mean you do not have gifts that you can give. Give your time. Give your talents. Give your youthful energy. Devote a few evenings and a weekend each month to working for a charitable group, giving them your ideas, your energy, and your effort to make sure that the group’s work is done. It doesn’t matter what charity you work for – just find one that can utilize your skills and makes sense to your own personal values.

Giving Later

Andrew Carnegie, in his famous essay Wealth, argues on behalf of giving later:

Individualism will continue, but the millionaire will be but a trustee for the poor; intrusted for a season with a great part of the increased wealth of the community, but administering it for the community far better than it could or would have done for itself. The best minds will thus have reached a stage in the development of the race iii which it is clearly seen that there is no mode of disposing of surplus wealth creditable to thoughtful and earnest men into whose hands it flows save by using it year by year for the general good.

In other words, the people who are already rich know how to accumulate wealth, and their best gift to charities is to keep using this knowledge to accumulate more wealth if, in the end, it is eventually bequeathed to the needy.

This philosophy is derided by many as being greedy, but I don’t see it that way. I think Carnegie is actually quite right, and I think he’s basically voicing the exact same philosophy that Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are espousing with the Gates Foundation.

To put it simply, if you have a gift for acquiring wealth, but you need those financial resources to earn more wealth, then you should not just sign over all of your assets to a charity while you can still use that gift. Instead, plan to bequeath what you have to charity once you can no longer use your gifts – in your dotage or after your passing. Alternately, you can devote time and money by bequeathing a large portion of your wealth to a charity then agreeing to serve as that organization’s treasurer, putting your wealth-building skills to work.

To me, this is charity in its purest form – people using their gifts, both monetary and non-monetary, to help charities.

Giving Both

My belief is largely this: give time now, give money later.

Early in life, the resource you have huge amounts of is time, not money. Thus, it makes sense for a young person to give their extra time to charitable work. Find a charity you actually agree with and spend some weekends and week nights working for them. Maybe you can volunteer to coach the community Little League team, or perhaps you can help hand out food at the food pantry. Maybe there are local committees that could use your input and attention, like a church council or a local school board or a political campaign.

On the flip side, younger people often don’t have as much money. They might be working at well-paying jobs, but they’re often facing huge debts from student loans and mortgages, and they also need to financially plan for their old age. Many are also loaded down with children who also eat into the pie and also need some planning for their future.

On the other hand, later in life, time is shorter. You might not be working and you might still be able to give your time and talents to charities, but you don’t have the youthful vitality of others. Often, your role is teaching others how to hold the reins.

However, late in life is when many people have the most wealth. It’s also the time when you can be setting up bequeathal plans, giving much of that accumulated wealth to people who may need it, both when you’re alive and after you pass.

Because of that, I generally believe that earlier in life, your time is your best gift, not your money. Your time can be used to provide all sorts of services, and your youthful vitality makes that time quite valuable, because most volunteer work really thrives on energy and focus. Take your money and do sensible things with it, ensuring that your family doesn’t have to use the charities, now or later.

Later in life, use that experience in both time spent volunteering and money saved to allocate some financial gifts. You’ll have a very good idea of good places for your money to go, plus you’ll have the experience to hand over the reins of your volunteer work to others in a sensible fashion.

Obviously, there’s no reason not to give a surplus of money now, nor no reason not to give a surplus of time later. The key is to look at what you have in terms of both money and time and give what makes the most sense, but never forget to give. There are many, many people not just in your community but in the world as a whole who could benefit from your help.

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  1. As a regular reader of your blog, I must heartily disagree. I think explaining away that you should not give money to charity if it will put you at “financial risk” shows a big lack of faith in God to take care of your financial and physical needs. There, I said it, lol. That is, of course, if you are a Christian who has faith in God. And if you are a Christian who has faith in God, I think that it’s only our duty to give from our hearts to those in need and to the church, and not purely from the protection of our own wallets.

  2. RJ says:

    Do you consider giving money to church charity? Do you hold the same concept as well in giving money to your church? Just curious…

  3. Enoch Ko says:

    Hi Trent,

    I wrote “A Debate on Charitable Giving” last week on my blog. It seems we have similar views on the timing of charitable giving.

    I wonder what’s your position on other issues I discussed in my “debate”:
    1. What causes do you support?
    2. Do you target long-term or short-term problems?
    3. Would you give locally (to your family & friends, your local community, your country) or give widely (to whomever needs it most regardless of geographic location, race, age, sex, etc.)?
    4. Would you give directly to those in need or give indirectly through charities?

    If you’ll cover these in future posts, I look forward to reading them! :)

    Cheers,
    Enoch

  4. Margaret says:

    I disagree. Well, perhaps I would agree if I thought that everyone who accumulates wealth was going to leave large sums to charity, but I doubt it. My family has quite a debt load, but last year we gave about $2000 to various charities. I have considered cutting back, but the majority of those donations are to organizations that help children in third world countries (mainly child sponsorships). I can’t bring myself to say “sorry about you not having food or education kids, but we bought too much stuff, so you’re cut off”. I understand that if we got out of debt faster, we could give more later, but so many people in the world need help RIGHT NOW.

    From what I have seen in my life, there are a few people who give very generously to charitable causes, but most people give very little. I think it would be better if more people started out with small donations earlier in life so as to establish a practice of giving to charity.

  5. Johanna says:

    I agree that donating so much money that you’re putting your financial future at risk is probably unwise. But that’s not a reason to donate no money at all. A small donation, multiplied by many people, can add up to a big difference.

    If everyone in the rich world donated something like 1% of their income to help the world’s poorest people, we could see an end to extreme poverty in our lifetime. 1% of your income is not a lot of money. If you make $60,000 a year, it’s less than $2 a day – less than some 2.5 billion people have to live on. That’s not an amount that’s going to make or break your financial future.

    A very good book on this subject is “The End of Poverty” by Jeffrey Sachs.

  6. Johanna says:

    Yikes. I obviously meant that $2/day is *more* than 2.5 billion people have to live on, not less.

  7. Justin Philips says:

    I agree with the article, and my strategy will be based on this idea. Thanks for sharing your insight

  8. Shevy says:

    A person obviously shouldn’t give huge amounts of money to help strangers when the person or the person’s family is going without (or is in danger of going without in the future).

    However, a large number of people believe they have a religious obligation to give a percentage of their income to charity and this obligation generally cannot be discharged by giving time.

    I don’t think people should be discouraged from giving tithes or tzedakah. As an employee of a non-profit I see that people in many cases are already not giving as much as their parents did.

    Many of the older generation came to North America with little or nothing and worked very hard to make a life for themselves here, but they gave money to charity all along the way. Maybe it was a few coins a week when they started, but it grew into significant amounts of money as they established themselves.

    In most instances we live a much easier life than they did in their early days. We’ve just turned a lot of luxuries into “needs” that have eaten into the money our grandparents would have used for charity.

    Yes, we should be funding our retirements and paying off our debts, but there is a real place for giving a percentage of our money as well as time to charitable organizations we believe in.

  9. Jodi says:

    You’ve left out a big part of the equation for some people – religion.

    As a Roman Catholic, I believe all that I have is not my own, but my Savior’s. I am merely His manager. I should and will manage His money well and use it to take care of those he has put in my care. One way of reminding yourself that this money is not your own is to give generously of it. We tithe (meaning tenth, 10%) our income. And as we accumulate wealth we will be able to give more.

    On the same topic, I really enjoyed Dave Ramsey’s talk on “Giving” in his FPU course.

  10. Jodi says:

    Haha! Apparently we were posting the same thing at the same time. :)

  11. Sara says:

    I also like the idea of waiting, or at least heavily scaling, charitable gifts since the organizations can receive more money in the long run. For anyone planning on giving a large sum near the end of their life, it’s very important to have a will drawn up that lays out your charitable wishes. Otherwise, that money you saved so diligently may end up going to great-nephew’s new Corvette…

  12. Mo says:

    What you give with love in your heart will be returned to you 10 times over. Enough said.

  13. Niles says:

    If you actually *read* the article, he’s saying to evaluate what you have to give, then give what you have the most of to do the most good.

    And for the majority of people, monetary wealth comes later in life, if ever.

    I know that a lot of people are going to disagree with this post, because monetary donations toward the “children in third world countries” has become a lucrative tradition in this guilt-ridden culture.

    Sending money “to the starving children” is very popular amongst the “armchair” donors, but besides making you feel good, doesn’t really move us in the “right” (or indeed any) diretion.

    I’m a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Tanzania), and I can tell you from first hand experience that even in the best of countries, lots of that donated money gets spent frivolously.

    That’s not to say that all foreign aid organizations are crooked, just that you’d be amazed how much they can skim off the top while still being able to produce “pretty numbers” for the public.

    While we were there, we read studies that plotted how the poorest people world-wide spend their money on as their income increases: food and clothing stays flat-lined, transportation increases slightly (gas is still cost-prohibitive), but technology spending skyrockets exponentially.

    It’s a status symbol to flash the cell phones, satellite TVs, etc. The phenomenon is not unknown here in the US, I’m sure you can think of people who spend what little they have on their “image” even when their family hurts for it.

    And if you’d ever actually been to the “third world” (not just watching it on TV), you’d probably be amazed at how many “western goods” get there.

    As we dump “obsolete” products, they are quickly gathered up and resold to the third world at high premium, and their gobbled up by everyone aiming for the skewed image of America that they’ve built up from our media (didn’t you know, all Americans are white, with blond hair and blue eyes and perfect bodies that race around in sports cars all day, getting into gun fights?)

    We also have created severely dependent cultures, that see incoming aid as a *right*, and so have little motivation to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” as it were.

    Now, none of this is to say that we should stop sending money overseas all together, because sustainable development requires local people taking charge of their own financial futures, and for work to be done somebody has to pay for it.

    But what these countries need more is educated and skilled workers who can pass on their knowledge and talents. Sure, money is needed to lubricate *that* system, but the goal is for their independence from aid.

    Only after you’ve financed an educated and skilled working class should any additional monies be sent, mainly as investments in infrastructure.

    Only when they’re skilled enough to build their own infrastructure will they “own” it, and then take the responsibility to maintain it. When we step in and build things for them, everything quickly falls apart after we leave.

    Some people will argue that in some countries, they’re still at the level where basic necessities aren’t available, and so it’s fine and dandy to say they need education, but it won’t help them if they’re actually *starving*. They need to be alive and healthy before they can be educated.

    There’s the second load of guilt for us, if you look at the root of *why* they can’t feed themselves. Simply put, hundreds of years ago they had the same chance of feeding themselves as any of us did. People weren’t starving then, because they knew how to grow what they needed.

    The problem came with our “modern” farming methods (artificial fertilizers, single cash crops over varied sustenance crops), which in our colonial pursuits we pushed onto generations of poorer countries. That failed monstrously, as now we’ve created generations of people who don’t know how to farm properly, stuck in the similar situations as “dust bowl” era America.

    Now, through science we’ve “relearned” the ancient way of farming (google bio-intensive farming and permaculture), which can produce huge excesses of food in tiny, infertile spaces, with no need of artificial fertilizers. Now we’re going back to these countries to “undo” the damage previous generations did. Again, guilt-trip.

    Anyway, my point is that you can’t just make simple statements like “you should donate money to the starving children” or even “don’t give money, give time” because the truth is it’s a complicated mess, and it’ll take a vast combination of things to reach the goal of replacing poverty with financially independent nations.

    Anyone who comes on TV and says, “all you have to do is donate X dollars and …” is simply using guilt to give people “the warm fuzzies” that they’re really helping the world.

    Ok, this is too long a comment after just waking up. Also, to guard against the coming comments: yes, this is just my opinion, yes I hadn’t thought of that, yes I’m just a naive kid who doesn’t know how the real world works, yes, I misspelled that, yes I really meant that instead, and yeah, you’re totally right, what was I thinking?

    Be Happy!

  14. Niles says:

    Wow, it’s hard to tell how long your comment really is when the text box is so small. Apologies for taking up so much screen estate, seems I got a little carried away.

  15. T says:

    This is a great topic for a post, and something I’ve thought a lot about. And, overall, I disagree.

    If people were perfectly rational beings things might be different. But, we’re not. We’re habit forming creatures, and we make decisions contextually. If we tell ourselves “oh, I don’t have that much yet – I’ll just use what I have now to get really rich, and then give it all away at the end of my life” we will (1) scale our living in the meantime to what we see as being appropriate to what we have in the bank account, without remembering to subtract out what we’re telling ourselves we’ll give away differently, and (2) even more importantly, we will not develop the habit of thinking of helping others as being a primary obligation for what we need to use our money to do.

    Of course there are exceptions to all of this – everyone would like to think that they are a Warren Buffet or a Bill Gates. But, it turns out, very few people are a Buffet or a Gates – either in terms of their unique gifts for making money grow, or their willingness to give it all away at the right time. I do nothing sophisticated with my invested money that any functional charity with decent management wouldn’t do – but I do know that the more I get used to not giving, the harder it is to start, but the more I make it an automatic routine, the more I just adjust my “needs” and priorities to start.

    Humans are habit forming creatures – but we can use our knowledge that this is so to try to shape our habits into ones we are proud of and believe in.

  16. Mister E says:

    Time now, money later is a great way of putting it.

    I honestly think that throwing money into charitable causes is, often times, just throwing money away anyways. I don’t think adopting a kid in Africa is really doing any good in the grand scheme of things. Maybe I’m just a jerk.

    I do volunteer a bit and I do give a small amount each year to local charities since the company I work for will match any charitable donations up to a few hundred dollars and I figure not taking advantage of that offer is also akin to throwing away good money.

  17. guinness416 says:

    Good article! I don’t think he forgot the religious aspect, guys (and you forgot zakat shevy), god knows it’s all over money blogs all the time – but a bunch of outraged links from evangelical blogging buds gets the conversation going, right?

    I’m with you to a point, Trent – blindly writing a cheque for 10% every month even when you need that money, just because it’s the done thing where you live, is silly and absolutely does not absolve you of donating time to your community (or make you look less foolish when you’re hard-hearted towards people less well off than yourself). Everyone should put some thought and in-house debate into the whole thing. But I tend to agree with Johanna (as usual) and T; it shouldn’t be all or nothing, and T is right on the mark in suggesting that like exercise, study, money management, etc habit-forming in giving is very important.

    But as long as you’re giving something and recognize that we’re all in it together that’s all that counts in the end, I suppose. A frightening number of people give neither cash nor time.

  18. Sarah says:

    Golly, and here I thought Christ commended the widow for giving her mite (“all her living”). Shows what I know…

  19. Flea says:

    I am of the give later camp as well. I would hate to give away money and then have a disaster strike where I could have really used it.

    Flea
    http://beasurvivor.blogspot.com/

  20. Louise says:

    I agree that one’s giving should be biased toward time when young, money when older. For one thing, giving time often makes a person become emotionally invested in the charity. We used to say in our church, “The more you give, the more you get, and the more you give again.”

    As you earn more money, then give more money. As your commitments to your family grow, you probably will give less time to charities. But it isn’t an either/or situation.

    We have written our wills to give half of our estate to various charities and the other half to family and friends. We modify the list of recipients as our relationships and values mature and change. (Adding new kids to the list, removing or modifying charities.)

  21. Shevy says:

    @Guinness416

    I just forgot the Arabic word; I knew the concept existed within Islam as well.

  22. Johanna says:

    Cheers, guinness. :)

    A couple of other thoughts:

    Charities often don’t need time as much as they need money. There may be a surplus of enthusiastic young people willing to hand out food at the soup kitchen, but if there’s not enough food to hand out, there’s only so much they can do. Obviously, this varies from charity to charity, though.

    While youth is a time when you don’t usually have so much money, it’s also a time when you can learn not to need so much money. Your first few years living on your own are when you establish what level of spending and consuming is “normal” for you. Just as it’s the very best time to get used to the idea of saving for your own future (so you don’t have to take a big lifestyle hit later one), it’s probably also the best time to get used to the idea of setting some money aside to give to others.

  23. Shane says:

    I disagree with your stance but that’s only a personal belief. I think the habits you set in giving money at an earlier age when you have less of it will set the standard for later in life when you have more to give away.
    My greater concern is that people will read your post and instead of getting excited about giving money away in the future, they will use this line of thinking to justify why they are not giving any money away now.
    I also believe that just like money saved now will earn interest, money given away will do the same and perhaps to a greater level. If I saved more money now, perhaps I could give more away later. But many need money right now to survive and also to grow in spectacular ways. We have no idea what the future holds for those we allow to live long enough to see it.

  24. Rick DeKam says:

    I disagree – I think too many of us simply do not tithe and those of us that do too often find it difficult.

    I think that getting involved in donating our time and money should be worked into our lives from an early age so that becomes a habbit and part of our culture.

    Learning to live for others and leaving this world a better place is a far better concept within our daily routines is a far better leason and what you’re advocating.

    While I agree with the premise of your argument, I also don’t think that any of us give to the extent that we would ever jepordise our wealfare or future financial capabilities.

    The general population that would take the time to read your blog should be encourage to take the road less traveled and to build a habbit of giving into their lives.

    Your argument could be taken as a license to not give of our time or money and feel just fine about it so long as we are working hard to grow our own net worths.

    Regardless of your wealth or income, a life that includes giving of your time, talent and money, and especially a life where you to can lead others to do the same, is a life worth while.

    Rick DeKam

  25. almost there says:

    As a former catholic, turned athiest I do not tithe. But I do not have a black heart. I feel better just paying favors forward and helping those I can. When my family members are in need I will help them first but make allowances for others also. Case in point: I was in the credit union this week and there was a poster and handwritten display about the colorado and MN credit unions were gathering funds to build houses for two disabled veterans that lost limbs in Iraq.

    http://www.homesforourtroops.org/conventions08

    My credit union was $210 short of their goal of $22,000. I had the money and it felt good to say to apply the money to the fund. Just one in over 40,000 disabled from the current conflict, but that’s how one eats an elephant-one bite at a time.
    I look at charities with a hairy eyeball. Look at the cost of administration of various charities and you will find that most of the money never reaches the intended that givers try to reach. I support the CRS, catholic relief services because they have a low operating expense and most money goes to the intended. The American Red Cross is a good organization, but look at the overhead- Last year they had to trim their 100 directors on their board. They take in free blood from donors and sell it to hospitals at market rates. Lizzy Dole (fmr senator Bob Dole’s wife)left her Secretary of Transportation job for the 2 milllion dollar salary and perks that the ARC provided. Look at the scandals of the leaders in the United Way of past years. Be informed of who you give to after hearing the sob stories.

  26. Joyce Jarrard says:

    You took me by surprise on this one, Trent. I will agree with you that for a non-Christian, waiting to give monetarily until one is “established” financially is good, worldly wisdom. However, I thought I remembered you saying that you are a Christian. If you truly are a Christian, who places some value in the scriptures, I challenge you to read and study more on the spiritual and financial blessings available from giving and tithing. (I’m not talking from a legalistic perspective. The bible has a great deal to say about money.) I would reccommend that you check out some resources from Crown Financial Ministries. There is even a book for business owners, called “Business by the Book” – by the late Larry Burkett.

  27. guinness416 says:

    Ugh, give him a break, many Christians have their own interpretations of what they should do in terms of giving. I’m a cradle Catholic (from ultra-catholic Ireland, even) and literally never heard the phrase “tithing” in a modern context or that a 10% direct withdrawal was common until I moved to the US.

  28. T says:

    Although I tend to think many charities need both time and money, I whole-heartedly agree with comment #15 that when you’re young you’re often better able to live with less (and if you do so now, it’ll help set patterns for the rest of your life!).

    I’d also add that while I’m sure this varies for everyone, when I’m young is definitively NOT when I find I have a lot of time! Particularly for many women, there’s a period when you’re young when your family commitments and goals and your career goals are really pulling you in two directions in a way that doesn’t really seem to be true at any other time of life. Frugality in order to give as well as to save, though, is something I can better do….

    Again, though, I really like the topic!

  29. Corban says:

    @ Shevy – You must be referring to the practice of zakat.

  30. Tradd says:

    Trent, are you advocating people give NOTHING but time when young? If that was the case, many houses of worship would be closed – most are entirely self-supporting and don’t get money from a national church body, etc. Then there’s the charities…

    Even if you don’t have a lot of cash, being frugal and watching sales for donations of non-perishables to food banks, for example, can help a few dollars stretch. My church has a big Rubbermaid trash barrel for the local food pantry we also keep very filled (with overflow on the floor next to it). We’re also going to be gathering school supplies for needy children in our area. By watching for the really good sales (10 cent notebooks, etc.), a person can get a lot for even $5-$10.

    I tithe, as well as giving a lot to the local food bank, and I’ll enjoy my school supplies shopping trip. I also help out those I personally know when there is a definite urgent need (such as job loss).

  31. Shanel Yang says:

    Trent – Thanks for sharing your true feelings about this. Obviously this is an important topic that’s on a lot of people’s minds. I have given time and money in the past but only felt really good about it when I gave time. I still hear from people decades later saying what I difference I made with the time I gave. As for the cash, I can only hope it made a difference.

  32. Margaret says:

    Niles, your comments were very interesting, but would you clarify: are you saying that the child sponsorship programs aren’t worth supporting at all as they are, or are you just frustrated that there aren’t better things to support? If the child sponsorship programs really are crap, I could see leaving them, but then I would probably just redirect the money to Kindness in Action or the Stephen Lewis Foundation. I would still donate. Maybe that is putting my long term finances at risk, but skipping the donations and adding the money to my budget would not necessarily improve my future — it might just get spent on gotta have it non-necessities. Or I could carry it to the nth degree and never feel that my finances are secure enough and never want to donate.

    Besides, donating makes me feel good.

  33. justin says:

    Mar 10:21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
    Mar 10:22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
    Mar 10:23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!

  34. justin says:

    King Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, wrote:

    Pro 28:6 Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich.

    Pro 23:4 Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.

    Pro 28:22 He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him.

  35. Sarah says:

    By the way, for those of you looking for somewhere to direct relatively “small” donations that will have a direct and visible impact, consider Modest Needs (http://www.modestneeds.org). Modest Needs offers small grants (<$1000) to low-income people to help them meet the costs of crises in their lives, the sudden expenses that it can be very hard to meet if you are living paycheck-to-paycheck. The goal is to prevent such expenses from causing a spiral down into poverty and dependence (as can happen when, say, a medical expense causes missed rent and thus eviction, or the inability to pay for car repair means a lost job). All grant applications are verified by Modest Needs staff.

    Also, if you need to be reminded of how absolutely grateful you should be for what you have, read some of their requests for grants–elderly people having to choose between medicine and heat, single mothers trying to get a security deposit so their three kids don’t have to sleep on someone’s couch…

    It’s much, much too easy to say that you will “give later.” You never know when your time will come, and if you are Christian, an accounting will be required of you.

  36. Scott says:

    Trent, I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog over the past few weeks since I discovered it. Of the several PF blogs I read, yours is consistently one of the best written, insightful and thought-provoking ones. But on this topic I believe you have missed it. I would say that I could not disagree with you more, but I could if you had said not to give of your time when we are young. We are wired to be givers…of our time and of our financial resources. To not give when we are young is to rob ourselves of one of the greatest joys of life. To think that one can live a life of accumulation and then turn around at the end and give it away or to just give the leftovers after our own needs are met seems very self-serving and selfish. Habits are formed when we are young. And what happens when a financial reversal wipes out those assets you’ve hoarded during your life to give away when you’re sure you won’t need them anymore? Will you even be around to give them away and experience the joy of seeing the difference you’re giving can make in the lives of others. You’re buying into a real scarcity mentality here, it seems, when it comes to finances and charity. Gosh, I could go on and on here. I hope you’ll re-think your position on this one. Don’t cheat yourself out of the joy of giving of your financial resources…even when you’re young.

  37. reulte says:

    Justin (comment 33, 34) – I really wish you would make comments – something relevant from your own perspective – rather than simply quoting Bible verse which are not always pertinent to the conversation going on.

    I’m probably going to anger a few people here but I decided long ago that taxes ARE my donation.

    If you are required to donate (by religious decree or expectaton or inculcated habit) . . . then it is not a donation, freely given and from the heart.

    Having said that . . .
    I agree with Trent that time and energy is easier to find when you’re young; financial assets when you’re older. I would go further and say that donations should be made locally – volunteering to lead the Scouts, volunteering as a museum docent, volunteering to take the elderly man who can’t drive anymore to an appointment or the store. Locally – not because you’ll ultimately benefit through reputation or getting assistance when you’re the one who needs it – but because then you know they are receiving 100% of what you give. I agree with Niles and have seen exactly the same thing through my travels (4 continents, 20+ countries and still traveling).

  38. Johanna says:

    @Niles: You make it sound like aid organizations just hand money over to poor people (after first helping themselves to a cut) and say “Here you are, do as you please.” If any organizations actually operate this way, I’d like to know which ones they are, because they’re being very stupid. Organizations that are not stupid (which, I would think, is most of them) are doing exactly what you think is needed: Sending skilled workers to help build infrastructure, providing basic necessities where they are needed, and always working toward the goal of creating a world where aid is not needed.

    Again, if there are specific organizations that are guilty of the problems you describe, please tell us which ones they are, so that we do not punish the rest of them for the foolish actions of a few.

    You are correct that in many ways, the poverty of the poor world is the fault of the actions of the rich world, but that’s a reason to give more aid, not less. I don’t feel particularly guilty about this (since none of it is my fault in particular), but for those who do, what’s wrong with that? Guilt can be a powerful motivator to get people to do what’s right.

  39. Scott says:

    Fascinating controversy! Trent is of course correct that in the long run, an individual saving and investing his earned value (building his own business, etc) will create far more value in the long run because of the creation of efficiencies. In theory that person could then donate a much larger amount of money than they could if they gave their money away all during their life. It’s not a matter of hoarding money, but rather one of chasing money with money; improving economic efficiencies to create more value where there once was no value at all.

    Niles is also correct in that the vast majority of charity organizations (to which you “give” money) do little to help, and sometimes actually harm, the people who are in need of assistance. The only charities worth giving to are those that can multiply the value of your money in a way that you cannot. This includes churches, but also your local YMCA. The best charities are run like businesses, and in some cases actually are. While I detest “child labor” and the exploitation of the poor for corporate profit, companies like Nike still paid more than almost any other job available to the workers they employed, and they taught valuable, albeit limited, trade skills.

    The religious argument is very powerful as well, however. The problem with holding on to your money is very much a problem that the protestants encountered when they first began acting in a capitalistic manner. The protestant ethic required the reinvestment of wealth in the community, and the best way to invest in the community was to invest in oneself so that one could provide even better, cheaper services to meet the community’s needs. The problem was that many of these newly successful businessmen treated the value their businesses created as their own rather than as the property of the community, and as such they felt free to put some of their own desires ahead of the needs of the community at large.

    In order to accomplish what Trent suggests, one must vigilantly provide a business or service that addresses some need within the community, and, as Trent pointed out in his review of Ready, Fire, Aim, the “customer’ (the community) must always come first. From this, one can see that Trent’s argument is not at odds with the religious commandment to live simply and share your wealth, but that it requires much more vigilance and determination than simply giving tithe once a month.

    Finally, I’d like to point to Google as a business that has followed these guidelines rather strongly. While being one of the largest businesses in the tech industry, with a global reach and influence, the founders of Google have directed the company to undertake massive projects that could not be accomplished without massive existing funds, and they are turning around and offering the resulting services for free to the public. No amount of individual giving could ever accomplish as much as they have done in a few short decades, and if they are successful in their digitization of all printed works, they will have done humankind a service that is almost immeasurable in the good that could come from it.

  40. Johanna says:

    @Scott: “While I detest “child labor” and the exploitation of the poor for corporate profit, companies like Nike still paid more than almost any other job available to the workers they employed, and they taught valuable, albeit limited, trade skills.”

    True, but irrelevant. There are hundreds of millions of people in the world who do not even have the option of working in a Nike sweatshop. They are the ones who most need the help of aid organizations.

  41. Paul says:

    I find the whole discussion of waiting to give later distasteful. People, this sounds like little kids quibbling, trying to come up with reasons for not doing the right thing! Give time and money now… forget choosing one over the other. America is not as greedy as most of the developed world (surprise – just compare our giving rates with England, France and Germany), but our charitable giving is a small fraction of what it should be. Don’t teach our kids to delay their responsibilities. Learn to live on 90% of what you make. The earlier you learn to do that, the easier it is. Let the Lord bless the rest. We can make the world a better place.

  42. Johan says:

    Some of you touched on it, but nobody spelled it out so I will: Giving time when you are young is a great way of getting as well. When volonteering, you meet all kinds of different people, and you do things you would never have done in your “real” job (or else, you do it with people you would never have worked with). And what do you get when you do that? The most valuable commodity of all: Experience. And that, of course, is precisely what you need when you are young.
    I heartily agree: Young people should give their time – even if they happen to be billionaires. Experiences gained when young are worth much more than experiences gained when old. And it also helps you value what you give your money to when you are old.
    And then, you retire, rich of course according to Trent, and can give all your time from age 60 onwards. For instance, teaching young people.

    Hope that helps.
    //Johan

  43. Matt says:

    At everyone about tithing. Where did this come from? I’m Roman Catholic (by baptism, anyway. I’ve grown critical, as I’ve gone to church every Sunday without missing a beat for 25 years). Is 10% tithing off your gross income, or net income? Is it off your disposible income, or before your expenses? If it’s after expenses, do you not consider some of your expenses because they’re really luxuries?

    I think Trent is right for the most part. Again, I think people try to rip his words apart for the sake of trying to make a point. But realistically, he’s right. And I’m religious… I’ve gone on mission trips, I’ve donated my time/clothes/food.. donated during the holidays, etc. And I’ll be the first to agree that before buying all this silly stuff you don’t need, you consider donating money first.

    But think of it this way: Consider a person just finishing college and has student debt. He’s probably paying 5-8% on his loan (after deferrment as much as possible, of course). I’d much rather see him pay off his loan and stop throwing money away on interest, rather than giving money to the poor and having that loan for years longer than he’d need. Once this person has his debt paid off, he’ll be in a much more stable position to give, and give more.

    Of course, that being said, that’s assuming he will give, and give more. But if you’re already a skeptic, there’s no point arguing with you. If you truly want to give, you will give, bottomline. And I truly believe that my time on mission trips, and playing piano for the choir, and tutoring kids, etc, paid a lot more than my $5/week I could afford when I was 16.

    Give what you can, but don’t be entrenched in a number like 10%, or think time is enough when you have plenty of money to give. Every person is different. If you’re a true skeptic, you could claim that, because you have a mortgage, you shouldn’t donate money for 30 years until your mortgage is paid off. The back-and-forth could go on forever.

    Give what you can. I’ll keep it at that :)

  44. jinnie says:

    I’m sorry to make this comment before taking time to read the other comments…but I’m curious about your (Trent’s) take on the 10% tithe tradition, as a Christian.

    I have taken the 10% amount very seriously as it is a clear mandate in the scriptures, and I’ve been very well taken care of in return for my faithfulness.

    In fact, my husband and I recently significantly reduced the amount we tithe due to large expenses in other areas, and I can’t help but note that even though we reduced that expense, we’re having more trouble then ever covering our bills.

    Many Christians would argue that the 10% to the church is a non-negotiable, first expense paid. This is God’s way of providing for the people who staff the church at which we learn and worship. And, even though we may have questions or concerns about how “churches” in general spend their money, it is a statement of faith on the part of the giver – God said to do it, and I trust that He will make sure it gets put to use as it should.

    Note that this is a reprimand to myself as much or more than preaching to anyone else!

  45. deepali says:

    @ Niles, I am from “the third world”, and have spent a lot of time in developing countries. I am a little disappointed in your gross misrepresentation of both aid agencies and LICs. Not everyone is trying to get a cell phone. Some (I’ll even say most) are trying to get food and medicines. And some are trying to send their daughters to school.

    People in developing countries are not any different than people in the US or Europe. We all want stuff, it’s human nature. Don’t fault the “noble savage” for wanting the western lifestyle.

    And as for “what Africa needs”, I think we should let the Africans decide, don’t you think? It’s a little condescending to be telling another country how to “fix things”, when we’ve got our own problems.

  46. deepali says:

    Oh, and Trent, great post. I think what matters the most is that you *give*, regardless of what form that takes and who the worthy recipient might be.

  47. Shana says:

    I am a Christian and I know it is important to give to charities and tithe to your church but I sometimes find it really really difficult on my paycheck especially on a teacher’s salary. I feel at times that I live pay check to pay check. That chunk of money is money that I have to have for food and gas or there is NO paycheck. That is why I think that it is important to give what you can and this leads me to my next statement…

    Don’t forget the value and importance of time which I believe can be more important than a donation.

    Comment #41?? You are absolutely right!! GIVE WHAT YOU CAN!

  48. yipyip says:

    It’s dangerous to invoke the self-serving rhetoric of “robber baron” types to justify one’s moral actions.

    There are two dangers I can think of concretely:

    1. The super-rich frequently make their massive fortunes off the backs of others. Consider Andrew Carnegie and his cohort, and their union busting activities.

    2. When people who have amassed mind-boggling fortunes start donating, they can create significant turmoil and bad consequences with their philanthropy. Consider Bill Gates and his mass vaccination program. Because of the sheer amount of money he’s pouring in, he’s destabilized the WHO’s general health promotion efforts.

    In this particular case the problem isn’t necessarily that he’s pushing vaccination, it’s that he’s not funding 100% of the costs. Vaccination programs require a lot of expensive infrastructure (like giant refrigerators and distribution networks) that doesn’t exist in poor tropical countries, and the countries are expected to pay for it. In order to take advantage of the vaccination money, they have to stop existing health programs to fund the infrastructure build-out.

    Also, a lot of his work smacks of traditional First World “charity” work (subsidies for First World businesses, e.g. we’ll give you $2 billion for a major public work project, but you have to use all the money to hire our companies to build it, and by the way they’ll charge you a 500% markup).

    Moreover, back to the moral argument, yes, the robber barons are good at amassing fortunes. That does not qualify them for working optimally toward the public good, or administering funds responsibly in the best interest of others.

    I’d argue that those are separate skills, which are not frequently found in the same individuals.

  49. Michelle says:

    I give my time as opposed to money because that is the only way I can ensure that 100% of what I am giving is being used in the correct way. And I give because I feel it is something I want to do, not becuase my religion (ie. cult) demands this of me. The meaning of charity is kinda lost when someone feels they are forced to give rather than giving from the goodness of their own heart. Yes, I am an atheist, and yes I am a good person with morals and care for others. We do exist!!

  50. sarah says:

    Question: Did Trent actually say not to give monetarily early on or not to give to the point of risking one’s financial future? If it’s the later (which is how I read it), then I fully agree.

    I am Christian who believes in tithing – and I don’t see this as risking my financial future – as others have posted, I do see how God has blessed that in my life. However, beyond that 10%, I know that given resources at this point in my life my time is a better donation. I fully expect that as I get older and more financially secure I will be able to give more monetarily.

  51. Jim says:

    @ Michelle: Where do morals come from? Not those obvious ones like, not killing, but those more tricky ones (don’t steal). An animal has no hesitation to take from another animal. Why are we different?

  52. jaybee says:

    @ Michelle: Is it possible for individuals to give to their “cult” out of the goodness of their own heart? I would agree that there are people that fit into your characterization: blindly doing what they have been told (and vehemently defending it to the last) without engaging their heart.

    I, for one, give to my church a tithe of my earnings. I do this without reservation because I know that I am supporting community-outreach programs that are helping those in need in the surrounding area. If my church was a country-club, with the tithe only going to build a bigger parsonage and get prettier stained-glass windows I would think twice about where my tithe should go.

    In addition, I also give my time to my church’s programs (something many of the tithers above don’t mention doing). I make sure my money is doing good because I take part in the services that are being provided.

    I know that the intrinsic rewards that I have received have surpassed the value of what I have given. So, there are people who give to their “cults” for the same reasons and from the same place in their hearts that you do, Michelle. We do exist.

  53. Lenore says:

    Although I adore Bill Gates for his work and huge contributions toward AIDS and education reform, let’s not forget the ruthless greed that put Microsoft on top and made him rich in the first place. How many people have suffered financially or creatively from his overcharging, monopolizing and blocking or stealing rivals’ ideas? It’s obvious he’s trying to clean up his legacy or work off a debt with the devil. What’s admirable about that?

    It also disgusts me that he and Warren Buffet are leaving no inheritance to their children or grandchildren. Who do they think sustained them emotionally and suffered from their absence as they built their empires? Is it the children of Africa or their own progeny they’ll want gathered around their hospital bed in the end? I can understand wanting your kids to be self-reliant and unspoiled, but why accumulate excessive wealth if not to pass it on to the next generation? Set up an annuity so your heirs aren’t rolling in money, but don’t leave them penniless and at the mercy of financial tragedy and a fickle economy. Maybe someone who has never been short on rent or had to choose between medicine or groceries can’t appreciate that poverty equals violence and disinheriting is potential child abuse. To me, blood is thicker than PR, and charity begins at home. I’m not impressed by someone who tithes heavily or volunteers for great causes if they neglect or mistreat their own family.

    For that matter, who do these billionaire entrepreneurs make their money from? It’s the common people who work for cheap wages at their companies and buy their inflated products. No matter what Wall Street would have us believe, greed is not good. Wealth doesn’t always trickle down, and the middle class is disappearing as the rich get richer and make the poor poorer. If I don’t get an inheritance, it will be because Reagan stripped my father’s federal pension, not because he’s trying to teach me a lesson or thinks more of a charity than his own family.

  54. Margaret says:

    Now that I have children of my own, I am sometimes absolutely floored when I think about how incredibly lucky we have been to be born in Canada. As I read somewhere, it is winning the birth lottery. How can you not feel compelled to help those who have not been as fortunate?

  55. Johanna says:

    Warren Buffett’s oft-quoted philosophy on inheritances is to leave his heirs “enough money to do anything, but not enough to do nothing” – meaning a few hundred thousand dollars each. If that’s “no inheritance,” then I guess I’m getting no inheritance too. How heartless of my parents not to earn billions of dollars and give it all to me.

  56. guinness416 says:

    I don’t know about Gates, but by all accounts Buffett has great relationships with his children, and they are happy. They also seem to be extremely accomplished (in charity, ecology and music) which suggests to me that they’re not “disgusted” or bitter. And that their dad seems to have been doing something right however they were brought up.

  57. Mister E says:

    I don’t think it’s true that Buffett is leaving nothing to his children, I’ve read where he’s said (and I’m paraphrasing) “I’ll leave them enough that they can do anything they choose in life, but not so much that they can choose to do nothing.”

  58. Niles says:

    @Margaret, Johanna: I wish I had a list of who’s clean and who’s not, but there’s no real “brand identity” for a lot of these charities, and their names are sufficiently generic to make it hard to know that you’re donating to the right one.

    It’s similar to the problem we have in the media when an organization is quoted for a news story or political ad: it’s relatively trivial to create a non-profit organization with whatever name you want, then say things that make it sound like you’re representing a larger group. I could, for example, register “Families for a Stronger Moral America” and then say whatever I wanted, endorse whoever I wanted, since most people would never actually check up that the organization is a one-man show.

    That’s not to say that the organizations are all scams, or that you shouldn’t donate your time and money, only that you should look for organizations promoting “sustainable” development, and “capacity-building”. We want to help people help themselves so that they’re not dependent on us, or anyone else, for donations. Independence is the goal, and organizations that just “hand stuff out” only create dependent cultures

    @deepali: Let me clarify myself. I’m not trying to say that all aid organizations are scams, just that what we in the “first world” might accept as “reasonable administrative costs” can actually be wasteful and detrimental when followed in the “third world.”

    For example, having a modern office with utilities like plumbing and electricity, plus some all-terrain SUVs with the non-profit’s name decaled on the side. These administrative costs may seem reasonable to us, but in practice only serve to further separate the aid workers from the people they’re trying to help. The people can then see these aid workers driving in these nice cars, taking their kids to private “international schools”. Or, when the organization is also staffed with locals, they use their access to the cars to take their own kids to school, or for other non-official purposes.

    Another issue is how we use the phrase the “third world”. The problem is that there is the reality of the situation, and the “image” that is presented by the media to your average “first world” citizen.

    The image (I’ll give America as an example):

    Most people in America have never left their own state, much less been to another country. They’ve never lived in a place with a drastically different culture, standard of living, government, etc. They might intellectually know that the world is broken up into hundreds of different countries, but at a visceral level, Africa is one big unit. So take any of the news coming from the entire continent (say, the recent election troubles in Kenya), and your average American thinks that Africa as a whole is experiencing it.

    When we’re asked for charity through the media, it’s for the “starving children”. Ask any American who those children are, and you’ll probably get the same description of the little girl with flies in her eyes, no water, no food, surrounded by rock ruins, from the same commercial. And our response is knee-jerk: they are starving, so they need food, so we’ll give money to buy food for them. Transaction complete, warm fuzzy feeling obtained, guilt assuaged.

    The reality:

    There isn’t a set living standard/culture/definition for a “third world” country any more than there is for a “first world” country. Both are broad categories that cover large variations in living standards.

    Some countries like Ethiopia, for example, are at the bottom of the rung, where just obtaining food and clean water is the #1 priority. In those countries, yes, an argument can be maid for more money over skill, as the people need to be at least reasonable alive and healthy before they can take care of themselves.

    Or in countries with persistent and regular violence, organizations like the Red Cross are needed to keep the people alive, they need as much money and skill as they can get, and it’s not about capacity building, but keeping the people from being wiped out.

    But then take country like Tanzania, which is often touted as a jewel of Eastern Africa in terms of its stability, its progress, and its openess to foreign aid organizations. They even have Scientologists there! They’re stilling living on less that $140 a year, but they’ve had 40 years of knee-jerk charity, and now there’s a definite “expectation” of charity from the West.

    All foreign influence effects culture, aid included. In some cases, a “perfect storm” of traditional beliefs and poorly guided foreign influence can make countries weaker rather than stronger.

    If I’m saying that the knee-jerk charity is wrong, then I’m saying that we need to look at the underlying cultural values and history before we can jump from problem to solution. If the problem is: starving children, we can’t just jump to “then give them food”, we have to ask, why are they starving? Because there’s not enough food. Why isn’t there enough food? Many reasons, because, like I said in my first post, people have forgotten the “correct” way to farm (ie., the way they were farming before we came along), but also because of say, recent droughts. Well, what’s causing these unprecedented droughts?…

    The knee-jerk reaction doesn’t foster cultures of self-responsibity, but one’s of independence. Let me elaborate.

    Take a culture that values pushes responsibility for events onto external factors, then set them up with foreign aid based on an external source handing down things, and you’ve got a problem.

    When I say a culture that “values pushes responsibility for events onto external factors” I mean when people have a disconnect in cause/effect. Where they do (or don’t do) something, and then when the repercussions of their act (or lack thereof) comes, they blaim (or braise) God. Remember when I talked about droughts?

    For decades, Tanzanians tore down trees around and on Mt. Kilimanjaro to make charcoal, despite warnings from environmentalists. They were warned that the lack of trees would alter the local weather patterns, causing the rain clouds to simply pass by rather than stick around. But knee-jerk reaction: we need heat, burning charcoal makes heat, Kilimanjaro has lots of trees to make charcoal: take the trees. It took years before the government stepped in.

    Instead of finding another solution to the heating problem, they took the quickest path. Fine for them then, but now, decades later, they complain that God is punishing them for some “unspecified” sinning, because now there’s major water shortages, and therefore less food, and hey look, now we’ve got starving children.

    In summary, I’m just saying that real foreign aid must focus on the long-term goal of creating self-responsible/sufficient countries. Short-term, knee-jerk responses are fine to start out (especially in crises), but they have to be monitored and phased out before cultures become dependent on them.

    The AIDS problem for example is hitting hard and fast, and so the knee-jerk reaction is our best bet now: throwing condoms at them in boatloads, promoting safe sex, abstinence, anything. But that’s only going to last for so long, because the AIDS problem is also heavily fueled by cultural practices (rape, molestation, fear of testing, fear of talking openly, fear of sex education, AIDS victims as outcasts) and a billion more that I can’t think of.

    @deepali: I’m not trying to misrepresent the aid agencies as a bunch of crooks, and I’m not trying to say that people should be denied Western conveniences or say that they’re somehow wrong to want them. Of course people want more goodies.

    As for saying “what Africa needs”, I’m saying that you and I may understand that different countries (and even different regions within a given country) may need different styles of aid (stuff vs. skills) that the average American has never been out of their own bubble and largely sees “the third world” as a single unit, and takes the knee-jerk approach simple problem: no food, simple solution: give them food.

    Also, yes it’s condescending to tell another country how to fix their problems, if the advice was unasked. It’s quite another thing to ask someone for help, to ask for advice on how to “fix things”, then say “well who asked for your opinion?”

    Peace Corps only goes into countries with invitation, and leaves when asked.

    Also, my greatest assumption underlying all of this is that the goal is to create self-responsible nations that take care of themselves as much as possible, with as little need for foreign dependence. If that’s not the case, then my arguments probably fall apart.

    I’m saying that it’s there’s no simple answer or simple solution, and that for the most part, donating your money “for the children” is great for the warm fuzzy feeling, but that it’s not going to fix the problem, only maintain the status quo.

    Let’s be clear that I’m not at all promoting throwing in the towel, only saying that you can’t be sure your charity is actually helping until you see the results first-hand, and that it’s a lot easier to gauge your impact by giving your time (because you’re there as it happens), then by giving your money (which means you have to then check up later).

    Again, sorry for the long post, and if any thought seems to have dropped off suddenly or is poorly organized/presented/misspelled, it’s probably because I didn’t exactly outline all this out. Also, you’re right, I didn’t think of that. ;)

    Be Happy!

  59. Margaret says:

    Niles: well said (more or less). I recently read something about some president or something saying that even though they get all kinds of aid money, it isn’t doing what the country needs because it comes with strings attached on how it can be used, and just managing the incoming aid take substantial resources in administration. Your mention of Ethiopia triggered another memory. I seem to recall reading that the US sends food aid, but it will only send food that has been grown in the US, and that a country like Ethiopia actually produces enough food, but the poorest of the poor either can’t afford it or can’t afford to transport it or something like that. Plus sending food there destroys the market for the local farmers.

    I am going to consider changing some of our donations. Instead of child sponsorships, for instance, I might choose projects from the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

    Also, although I personally prefer to donate to the “starving children”, there are all kinds of things to donate to. Medical research, universities, youth activities, SPCA, etc. If you disagree with where someone donates their money, you can find something that you feel does merit your support.

  60. Cade says:

    Wow, Trent…talk about a thought-provoking topic. You must feel like a pin cushion. There are lots of strong attacks on you in here. I guess this could legitimately be called a “charged issue.” Yikes.

    Niles had an interesting post and some keen awareness.

    To me, deepali had the most telling and insightful comment (#46)…”Oh, and Trent, great post. I think what matters the most is that you ‘give’, regardless of what form that takes and who the worthy recipient might be.”

    (Maybe deepali could be a guest contributor. The brevity and thought behind that comment certainly clarified things for me in an instant.)

    Congratulations on taking such a committed stand. I agree with you, 100%. I particularly liked this statement, “The key is to look at what you have in terms of both money and time and give what makes the most sense, but never forget to give.”

    You thought it through well.

    Good luck with all of those arrows coming at you. You’ll have the hide of a rhino at the end of this month.

    Cade

  61. Travis says:

    Just wanted to add my two cents before I give it to charity: I love this site but disagree completely with the philosophy Trent has espoused here.

  62. Dawn says:

    This is a little like charity begins at home, and I agree that we should make sure our own house is in order before giving to others.

    But, I also strongly agree with the poster who has trouble relying on Carnegie’s quoted philosophy as a reason not to give to charity. In fact, Carnegie’s position in that speech was to advocate not paying workers a living that would allow them to get ahead because he (and other wealthy individuals) knew better what should be done with the money, and paying workers better would just result in them having nicer lives, which wasn’t a necessity. It is this backward philosphy that drives so many people into poverty in the first place.

  63. Jeff Patterson says:

    I really enjoy this blog, but I found the premise that we should give our time early in life when we have it, and give our money later in life when we have it hard to swallow.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but it seems that many of the habits I have today, whether good or bad, were formed early in life and the older I get the more difficult it becomes to change. That’s true for me in every area including generosity.

    The statement that a person should never give money if it endangers their long term financial future also troubled me at first. That statement would be hard to refute, however, as a Christian, and regular giver, I found myself challenging my own thinking.

    I realized that it’s not the statement, but the perspective. The Word of God says just the opposite: giving doesn’t endanger our long term financial future, giving secures our long term financial future.

    The Bible says in Malachi 3:10-12 (TLB) that if we…

    “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse He will open up the windows of heaven for us and pour out a blessing so great we won’t have room enough to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you! Your crops will be large, for I will guard them from insects and plagues. Your grapes won’t shrivel away before they ripen,” says the Lord Almighty. “And all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land sparkling with happiness. These are the promises of the Lord Almighty.”

    Giving may not make sense from an earthly perspective, but I can tell you from having tested Him, that His word is true!

  64. Lari or says:

    I am not a Christian, and I do not support the idea of tithe, or 10% of your income to church. However, I do welcome the idea of charity, and I deeply disagree with the article. First, charity is charity – one should give what they can and what they feel like, out of compassion alone. Second, the idea of giving time, pear butter etc. instead of money is all nice and well – unless you use it to justify unwillingness to actually contribute. Frequently, charities have channels to obtain better value for the money you donate than you can as individual. More than this, it is not uncommon that people donate useless stuff to charities just to be able to say “I contribute”, in a self-gratifying way. It is better not to donate at all, in my opinion – charity should be voluntary, and only from heart.
    Finally, the idea that rich people should do what they do best – accumulate money – and help community by becoming richer is preposterous. Rich people are not at all incline to charitable giving en masse, just the opposite – they very gladly take away community’s fund given a chance ( gov’t bailout plan anyone?).
    Give now and give from the heart. Money is important, yes – but it is less important than time. If those in need do not receive help now – it could be too late. Then you’d have to eat all the pear butter by yourself.

  65. Bunky Crawford says:

    Trent, before I begin please excuse my poor grammar. My name is —– ——– I have been married to my ——- ——— for 6 years. Three weeks ago we had our first baby —— ——— . He was a blessing, after trying to conceive for 5 years. My wife and I are trying to plan for our future. This isn’t an easy task considering our current finacle state. You see she has a very good job and I am currently unemployed. You could say some of problems are more on me due to the first two years of our marriage, me struggling to hold a good job. But this isn’t the reason for the problems. Because I always make money buying, selling, and taking odd jobs. We would say the main cause is Americas GREED. Banks, Lenders, credit card companies have been getting away with shady businesses. With actions in deceitfully practices, aimed to confuse our trick young people into agreements of unethical transactions. We live paycheck to paycheck while making over 100,000.00 year. You want to know what’s wrong with our economy, this is it! Things are greatly different today compared to warren buffets days. The people that we see retiring today have something only because things were different. They were able to take loans that were fixed and the contract wasn’t filled with fine prints of confusing terms. You see the power is in the older generation who have had there American dream in a day were they were just learning how to make more money. Now today’s what they started learning has been taught and tweaked to an excellent unethical way to earn it. They used to say “If you sign it there isn’t anything you can do” well back then a hand shake would even due. Now you can find reasons why one shouldn’t pay back a loan. I know that’s crazy but very true. I don’t know very many young couples today that don’t have stress less life, most all struggles week to week or month to month. An example of one of the shady business practices. Me and my wife took out a loan of 15,000.00 dollars six years ago. I guess we are like most being gullible, listening to what the lending agent told us rather than reading the 20 page agreement. We were told this would not bee a second mortgage. And we would have a fixed rate which was high at 12%, this we understood and agreed on. Well after paying 215.00 a month for over five years I looked at the statement for the first time in detail. I called for a payoff just to see were it stands. Tell me this HOW DO WE OWE 15,200.00? After complaining to them with not getting much explanation, I was left very angry feeling like I was coned. Then one month later I get a letter from then stating congratulations on our consistence of good business and we now qualify for a fixed rate. Before we knew this we had real hard times needing some cash and also got another loan, (Knowing what we know now bad choice). On this loan we remember receiving mail from them stating they were sorry that a recent request for a refinance didn’t go through, that we didn’t even request for. These made us think, realizing we also remember getting a statement with different account numbers but the same balance. Thinking not much of it then, but now wondering was an agent trying to earn there commission. Its things like this that America has to change. Protecting the easy to fool generation. The only way to change America is to fire 50% of congress. When people have power for a long time there hands are tied due to owing everybody something. They constantly are at a hustling game giving a lot for something big got. Because of the money we make we can’t qualify for any type of assistance, government our state help. We don’t even qualify for a person’s last resort of bankruptcy. Week to week with no end in stress, Gas got cut of last week because we didn’t have 69.00. You see we sit down and studied how to get out of dept, and found only two options. First is take all our dept of 40,000.00 excluding only our home mortgage, and try to get a fixed low interest loan from a creditable bank. We went to our local bank they told us that know one is lending any money without a CD to borrow against, WHAT! If I had a CD I wouldn’t need the Loan. The CEO of the Bank told me “A person should never borrow any money” I would like to know how he made his money. They told us if we had a CD we could get 40,000.00 at 5% fixed for five years. Since we don’t we are forced with a 12 year 200,000.00 future. This is depressing knowing we could pay back that 5 year loan in three due to the money we would save compared to be current monthly payments; we could easily double our payments. The other option that we are very much considering now is withdrawing our 401k of 36,000.00 and paying huge penalty, just to get some relief and hot water. I don’t know what the future holds. And the truth is nobody truly else does neither. You said “Individualism will continue, but the millionaire will be but a trustee for the poor; entrusted for a season with a great part of the increased wealth of the community, but administering it for the community far better than it could or would have done for itself. The best minds will thus have reached a stage in the development of the race iii which it is clearly seen that there is no mode of disposing of surplus wealth creditable to thoughtful and earnest men into whose hands it flows save by using it year by year for the general good.” Well 75% of all those rich people inherited there wealth, so it was given to them. Not some charity that falls into the American economics game of paying too much for very little. This money would do better in responsible Individuals. Also let me add that the number one problem with America is our government giving away money. US Government has no business giving away money. I don’t care if your home was flooded and you have no insurance. Or no insurance when a storm blew your home away. America is the home of the Free not the Free RENT. There has been many times in history people lost there home at no self blame or control, very sad. And American Government didn’t pay to rebuild individual’s homes back. Example the great Chicago fire. It really made me mad when the government bailed out all there buddies in the stock market gang. And when they stepped in and acted like an absolute monarchy deciding that Ford along with other businesses was worthy to stay on top of business. What happen to the land of the Free, the Land of OPURTUNITY? Our country was built on a person to make what wanted bad enough to work for. For a company to fall and another company or person to step up for there time that they worked hard for and earned. I am ashamed to admit it but I’m losing Faith. Thanks

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