Jesus says: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” This sounds obvious and easy – but Jesus makes it clear in the parable of the Good Samaritan that our neighbour is not just people who live near us or people who we like, but every human being in the world. We are called to value each and every human being in the world as much as we value ourselves. Every day, I fail to do this, and every day God forgives me.
Charitable giving is a focus of Jesus’ teachings. He tells us: “Sell your possessions and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with money bags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys”. It is clear that Jesus had some fairly serious charitable giving in mind. By sacrificing worldly goods to help those whose need is so much greater than our own, we build treasure in heaven, and we make the Earth a better place. Jesus is talking about big sacrifices here – he’s saying we should go as far as to sell our things to raise money to give to the poor. When we consider that we’re called to value them as much as we value ourselves, this idea doesn’t seem so silly.
Do I live up to these ideals? Absolutely not. I strive to model my life on Jesus’ teachings, and to this end I have pledged to give 10 per cent of my income to whichever charity I think most effectively helps those living in extreme poverty. I made this pledge through a charity called Giving What We Can, joining a community of over a thousand other pledgers. For me though, the power of my pledge is that I made it to God.
Why does my pledge include the concept of “effectiveness”? Now I’ve pledged to give this money, I have to choose where to give it. How should I choose? I should choose in a way that values every single human being as my neighbour. With this in mind, I’ve decided I want to give to a charity that can help as many people as possible with my donation. How can I work out which charity that is? It’s hard – there are several organisations researching this questions, but no definitive answers. Jesus does not give us lists of rules to follow – he tells us to love our God and love our neighbour. We have to figure the rest out ourselves.
Jesus calls us to radical giving, to abundant generosity, to a selfless love. That’s completely at odds with much of today’s culture. Through giving and pledging to give, I have grown in faith. The world is crawling with suffering. Indeed, it is one of the most common arguments against a belief in God. But we are striving to lift the world out of suffering, and in that struggle we meet God.