A couple of weeks ago I received this quote in my daily Quotemeal email from Heartlight.org:
If our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot because our charitable expenditure excludes them. — C. S. Lewis
This quote has been in the back of my mind ever since as I’ve pondered my own level of charitable giving. There are things I would like to have – such as a nicer car – but do not have in part because of my charitable expenditures. And yet I know that I still live much more comfortably than a large percentage of the population of this world. I know people who live on a much tighter budget than I do, and I wonder sometimes if I’m doing enough for the kingdom of God.
In a couple of weeks I will be part of a group of volunteers from my church to go to a local women’s shelter called Shepherd’s Door to cook and serve dinner for the 40 women and children who live there. If it were not for Shepherd’s Door, these women and their kids would be living on the streets with next to nothing. Many have left abusive relationships and have little hope. I am excited about the opportunity to be a blessing to these women, and still the time and money I will expend on their behalf scarcely seems enough.
C.S. Lewis says our charitable giving should “pinch or hamper us.” It is easy to give out of our excess, but a much harder thing to give up the things we’ve come to believe we need.
There is a bright line between what we want and what we need, but we tend to allow that line to be blurred in our own minds. We cling to what we want as if it were a need, forgetting others who truly do lack what they need simply to survive.
The list of needs is short: food, water, clothing, shelter, and God.
We do not need rib eye steaks, bottled and vitamin-enhanced sparkling water, designer clothes and jewelry, a 3,000 square foot homes, and big fancy churches to attend. Those things all fall in the “want” category.
We categorize so many things as needs, such as cell phones (preferably an iPhone or other Smartphone), new cars, cable television, air conditioning in our homes, a built-in dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer, and a home computer or laptop (like the one I’m typing this on). None of these are truly necessities; they are luxuries that much of the world population – even in the U.S. – does not enjoy.
Perhaps Lewis is exactly right – our charitable expenditures ought to pinch and hamper us just a bit more than they do.