We are being constantly reminded to give, particularly during this time of year. Giving is a much-touted virtue, though a much-twisted one as well. Various advertisements let me know that it is just fine if I wish to give to myself, instead of others–after all, I deserve ________.
Our government is a regular giver of gifts large and small to other countries, states, cities, citizens, companies, etc. At various times, we have been told that we, as a country are more giving than just about any other country in the world. Yet, there is a problem with this giving: much of what has been given does not exist. Last year’s “stimulus” checks? They were written from debt, not wealth. That $1800 which I received will cost me and my children many times that before it is repaid.
Have you ever heard, perhaps in the context of an emotional religious service, that you need to give sacrificially–to give “until it hurts”? I’m sure that most of us have. And, while there is nothing wrong (and indeed much right) with an individual or a family depriving itself of some things in order to help others with greater need, there is a principle in play here that is often given short shrift, or ignored entirely. The principle is simply this: one cannot give that which one does not have. If one does, it either requires debt or theft–which, while they differ in degree, still result in long-term deleterious affects.
While we are all being encouraged to spend this Christmas season, thereby saving the retail establishments from ruinous declines, very few are being encouraged to save. There is a reason that wealthier people may give great sums (outside of the tax benefits conferred by our convoluted tax code, but that is another topic). They have the money in the first place. That is, they have spent less than they earned.
The first principle of giving is that one must have the wherewithal to give. This means that before I can give, I must wisely earn, budget and save. If I have fallen through the ice , I am hardly in a position to help another person who has also fallen through the ice, am I?
I realize that we are a few days from New Year’s and its attendant resolutions. Nonetheless, I would challenge you to give of what you have, do not go into debt to do so, and encourage others you may know to place themselves upon as stable a financial basis as they can. The coming months and years will be difficult for many financially. Let us learn from recent events and ensure that our charity (in all senses of the word) is entirely righteous.