Water Mosaic echoes from home

pondering the mysteries, simplicity, and humor of life

Friday, February 18, 2005

Ethics of Giving

While driving into downtown Nashville this morning, I saw a man at the corner of an intersection begging for money. At least that is what I thought he was doing. I couldn't see him very well because I was in the far lane turning and he was across the street. I began to wonder how much money those people pull in from just standing at a busy intersection just off the interstate and beg other motorist for change. We've all been there, right? Sitting in our cars uncomfortable wondering if we should give this dude a buck or two, anxiously waiting for the light to turn green so we can leave this individual from our consciousness.

In the past I have had several conversations about the ethics of giving with college students. What is o.k. to give? Do we just give and not engage the person? Do you give only if there are exceptions?

I have wrestled with this issue many times in my mind. There have been times where I've given what I had to a beggar. Other times I haven't given anything and just turned the other way. And then I've offered to give them rides, buy them a meal, but not blindly given them money. I know the second option shouldn't even be an option but I chosen it before, shamelessly. I wonder what other people's ethic is for giving. Obviously I'm only covering those I consider homeless or poor and not engaging those within our neighborhoods, families, churches, businesses, schools, etc. They are apart of our ethic as well, which maybe the factor that should shape our answer.

Should we just give without question? Does that continue to hurt the system, where people will just use the money in harmful ways? How should we think in redemptive ways? Should we question and see the real need and then give? What is your ethic of giving?