Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."
An article in the NY Times Magazine caught my eye last month.
For decades, surveys have shown that upper-income Americans don’t give away as much of their money as they might and are particularly undistinguished as givers when compared with the poor, who are strikingly generous.
Americans as a whole tend to be far more generous than other nations – giving more than $300 billion a year. But when you peel back the numbers, you find that low-income working families are the most generous group, giving away about 4.5 percent of their income on average. This compares to about 2.5 percent among the middle class, and 3 percent among high-income families.
So why is it that those with the most disposable income are less inclined to part with their wealth?
Low income people may just know more people who are in need. Poverty, homelessness and hunger are not statistics or movies of the week – they are family members, neighbors, co-workers. There are faces and stories that bring these issues to life on a daily basis. Need is real.
There’s also the ‘there but for the grace of God’ phenomenon. When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, there is always a chance that you may one day move from donor to donee – a likelihood that becomes less likely when you have a six-figure IRA.
Perhaps, too, we have a much easier time grasping dollars than percentages. While $2,000 for the deli worker may represent more than $20,000 from a bank VP – the $20,000 just sounds like a lot more.
Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
Why are those who have the most to give the least likely to share in their abundance?We fall in love. We fall in love with money. With the pleasure, power and security it provides. We love money more than we love people.
And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet? We begin by coveting what we see every day.
What’s worse, the NY Times article adds, only a small percentage of charitable giving by the wealthy was actually going to the needs of the poor; instead it was mostly directed to other causes — cultural institutions, alma maters — which often came with the not-inconsequential payoff of enhancing the donor’s status among his or her peers.
So... I’m not looking for an answer to this next question, but hope you will take a moment to reflect in your own way: What is stopping you from give 5%, 10%, 15% or more to those in need?