Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Is there a higher form of charity to the poor?

There are many ways to give to the poor but is one better than the other?  In ancient Jewish culture there exists grades for how best to give to the poor.    

Giving  money to the poor directly when they are aware of who the giver is a lesser desirable form of charity (but sometimes necessary in times of crisis).  If the poor are fully aware of the giver there may be humiliation on the end of the receiver.  (Although, in Africa the opposite is true.  In the West we will do anything (credit cards, pawn shops, maybe even theft) to avoid asking family or friends for money.  It admits failure in some sense and degrades the asker.  In Africa it is normal to ask a friend or family for money.  In fact it is a high complement towards the asked.  It means they should be honored as God as placed them in a position of blessing in which they are able to give.)

To send money to the poor anonymously is slightly better than publicly.  That way the recipient feels no shame when encountering the donor.  This would be like tossing some change in the tin at the back of church to run the soup kitchen.  

Of even more virtue is creating jobs for someone in need.  Even when the job has been created directly for the worker, not for the work.  Most of us have benefited from this kind of charity. Maybe you had a father arrange a summer front-office job, or an uncle create a  maintenance position at a plant, or a friend take you on in house-painting project.  The job automatically opened the moment you needed it.  Most adults know that in the real world a job search is not that clean.  In Western culture there is far less shame in going to a friend or relative seeking employment than asking for money.  

But the highest form of charity in ancient Jewish tradition is creating jobs for those in need without them knowing what was done.  I think God is more pleased when the poor find dignity and provision from a days labor than receiving a hand-out.  

Christian Missions hospitals are at there best when they are full of national staff at every level; including laboratory technicians, sweepers, nurses, security guards, doctors, and scrub technicians.  Kijabe hospital employs over 600 kenyan workers.  That is 600 people who because of a job at Kijabe can provide food for their family.  They have a meager pension.  They have an identity and expertise as a nurse, cook, or x-ray tech.  They are able to afford school tuition for their children.  They have health insurance when they get sick.  Best of all they are an integral part of a team that impacts the world for Christ in a health-care setting.  Its hard to even call this charity.  But whatever it is called... I know God would be pleased all over the world to  1) see people working for His glory and 2) see employers creating jobs for his glory.

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