It should cost us something.

You’re generous, right? You give until it hurts. To whom and where do you give? Why?

Kris Zyp writes with a deft grasp of the monetary and resource disparities in the world and its relation to voluntary charitable contributions to those in need overseas:

povertyAbout 1.7 billion people live in absolute Poverty. Poverty is the inability to meet basic human needs, such as clean water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter due to insufficient finances. The United Nations defines poverty as living on less $1.25 (US Dollars) per day (less than $465 per year). About 18 million per year (a third of the deaths in the world) are a result of poverty-related causes. But the real tragedy is the fact that this continues when there are abundant resources to alleviate this suffering. There are plenty of disturbing comparisons of the relative ease with which we bring relief compared to the things which we spend money on here in the states. For example, the most extreme poverty in the world could be eliminated with the amount we spend on ice cream in America, and the cost to bring clean drinking water to most of the worlds poor is less than we spend on our pets in America.”

After some key statistics, Kris continues:

“To be clear, I am not suggesting that it is wrong to give domestically. I certainly wouldn’t discourage local giving. But everyone of us are people of limited resources. We can only give so much. If the purpose of your giving is just to satisfy some religious obligation or clear your conscience, than I guess it doesn’t matter where you give it. If the purpose of your giving is to make a real tangible difference in people’s lives, why not look for how your monies can make the biggest impact for those that need it most?” (emphasis added)

He then ambitiously deals with some common objections to prioritizing international giving:

  1. “But we have poor right here in America”
  2. “Jesus said if someone asks, we should give…”
  3. “We should fix our own problems first”
  4. “But we can give to both, I am in favor of all these charitable causes”
  5. “Handouts just keep people in poverty, they don’t really fix the situation”
  6. “You’re being totally naive, you can’t just boil these complex issues down to monetary figures”

Kris summarizes about out-of-balance giving:

“There is always a tendency to give more to the needs that are closest, but we need to be resolute in considering the needs of those far from us. And I don’t think we are in any danger of giving too much overseas. Even if half of our giving went overseas to meet the needs of the vast majority of the suffering world, we still wouldn’t be overdoing it, and with our current level of less than 10%, giving more internationally will never be likely to put us out of balance.”

(Full disclosure: Kris is my wife‘s brother. I’d still quote him even if he hadn’t taken me rock climbing.)

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