When Giving Isn’t Charity
Giving ‘poor’ people only things that we no longer want or need isn’t real charity, then. It can actually be more about helping ourselves and our needs than others!
By Joshua Jasvir
Many of us accumulate things in our homes that we don’t need or no longer use or want to keep. And so, every now and then, we set about disposing them off—donating them to a home-help, a ‘beggar’ or a charitable organisation. We give away a faded T-shirt or a pair of trousers that we no longer like, an artifact that we got for our birthday that we think is ugly, a TV set that we decide is now ‘just too outdated’, a table or chair we think is occupying too much space in our sitting room or books that we won’t ever read, and in doing so, we feel very happy that we’ve been very ‘charitable’.
I might have done this myself, many times.
But is this really ‘charity’?
While it certainly isn’t good to hoard things, including stuff we no longer want, and while in some cases those whom we give such things to might find them useful, I don’t know if such giving can be called ‘charity’ in the true sense of the term, if charity is defined as giving that’s born from a concern to meet the needs of others, rather than our own. Far from being directed by a concern for the needs of others, such giving might often be impelled by our own needs—such as the need to clear out our overloaded cupboards and remove what we consider unwanted ‘rubbish’ that’s littering our drawing rooms and kitchens, plus the need to occasionally feel good about ourselves by being ‘charitable’ to the ‘needy’.
Brand New Clothes
Giving ‘poor’ people only things that we no longer want or need isn’t real charity, then. It can actually be more about helping ourselves and our needs than others! Judging by this criterion, if I’ve given away, for instance, old clothes that I no longer want or like to ‘poor’ people, thinking I was being very kind for doing so, my action may not count as charity at all. Had I been truly concerned about their needs and welfare, I ought to have bought and given them a set of brand new clothes that I would have liked to wear myself.
Unwanted Pots and Pans
Genuine charity is when we give to somebody who is in need something that we ourselves cherish and value and that addresses their need—not things that we don’t like and want to dispose off by passing them on to someone else. It’s easy to donate things like unwanted pots and pans or shoes that no longer fit us, unburdening ourselves of things we don’t like or want anymore. But how difficult it is to engage in genuine charity—sharing with others things that we might be attached to, including our money, and, perhaps most of all, our time, giving to others of ourselves, rather than our unwanted possessions!