Thursday, December 21, 2006

How much should we give?

This is the time of the year when financial managers are busy trying to maximize tax incentives by giving. It's not just that Christmas warms our hearts to give, but it makes economic sense for donors to hang on to their investments, letting them gain as much interest as possible, until the very last days of the tax year, when those dollars can be released to ministries and charitable organizations to reap the maximum deduction in income taxes.

In my research about poverty and giving I came across this interesting article in the New York Times magazine by Peter Singer. He says the philanthropy this year of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet raises the following ethical questions...
Why are the people who are giving doing so? Does it do any good? Should we praise them for giving so much or criticize them for not giving still more? Is it troubling that such momentous decisions are made by a few extremely wealthy individuals? And how do our judgments about them reflect on our own way of living?
Singer outlines how it is within our reach to eliminate extreme poverty (defined as living on less than the purchasing-power equivalent of one U.S. dollar per day).

In 2000, the United Nations Millennium Summit, the largest gathering of world leaders in history, jointly pledged to meet Millennium Development Goals, by 2015. The goals include:
Reducing by half the proportion of the world’s people in extreme poverty.

Reducing by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

Ensuring that children everywhere are able to take a full course of primary schooling.

Ending sex disparity in education.

Reducing by two-thirds the mortality rate among children under 5.

Reducing by three-quarters the rate of maternal mortality.

Halting and beginning to reverse the spread of H.I.V./AIDS and halting and beginning to reduce the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.

Reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.
Last year a United Nations task force, led by the Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs, estimated the annual cost of meeting these goals to be $121 billion in 2006, rising to $189 billion by 2015. When we take account of existing official development aid promises, the additional amount needed each year to meet the goals is only $48 billion for 2006 and $74 billion for 2015. Singer details how a total of $404 billion could be generated without creating any hardship from just 10 percent of American families (those earning more than $92,000) if they gave just a portion of their wealth.

Where does that leave me? I am clearly not in the top 10 percent of America's wealthiest, but I learned from the Global Rich List website that I am in the top one percent of the world's wealthiest. I can't ask people to give unless I am doing my part. So I'm tossing in my "loaves and fish" and asking God to multiply it.


KJV said...

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:7

Arloa Sutter said...

Amen. Thanks! And another verse from Matthew 6:21 in the KJV, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."