View Full Version : When is conditional charity acceptable?

4th January 2006, 06:29 AM
This topic was brought up in the tsunami thread below. A few really good questions were put out there about the nature and/or purpose of Christian charity. For example, "Is it charity if there are conditions placed on it?" What conditions were placed on the beaten man in the parable of the Good Samaritan?

So when is it ok to set conditions of charity?

I think at the highest level of charity, you do have to set conditions. Because conditionless charity potentially hurts more than it helps. Everyone has been approached by someone asking for money to buy food or gas. Maybe sometimes we give them the money. But I've found the best thing to do is offer to walk with them over the market and buy them some milk and bread. 9/10 times they refuse the offer, because it was the cash they were looking for. So am I setting a condition on my distribution of charity?

How does this change when we enter the world of religious charity? Clearly forcing conversions to receive charity is well, so Middle Ages. But what if a group wants to distribute a book, or some literature? What if they have a soup line set up and lead the group in Christian prayer before eating? I'm certain it wouldn't be my approach, but is it wrong for a giver of anything to place a condition on what he gives?


4th January 2006, 08:23 AM
Fishers of men huh? We just have to be careful about who's trying to set the hook. I see nothing wrong with helping people to help themselves, however.

Just thinking
4th January 2006, 08:48 AM
I think it should be made clear up front just exactly what (if any) conditions are being imposed by the charities -- and then those on the receiving end can decide if they wish to accept them. It would be nice if there were never any conditions imposed beyond the use to restore what was lost, but that may be an unrealistic expectation, given the nature of some charities. Then again, let's not forget the "Golden Rule" ... He who has the gold, makes the rules. Is this not so different from how some companies place conditions (some being quite personal) on employees if they wish to work for them?

Although not exactly the same, I heard that there were distinctions given to some establishments in New Orleans as to whether or not they would receive government aid to rebuild. If they thought that the establishment was too raunchy or of ill repute, then no aid. Funny -- I'll bet the government had to problem accepting tax dollars from these establishments prior to Katrina.

So ... looking for fairness? ... for unbiased aid? Not on this planet.

4th January 2006, 02:46 PM
I think we have to distinguish between two degrees of the word "conditional" here. It's one thing to set conditions on how charity is to be used. We do this all the time, in scholarships, grants, donations of specific goods in lieu of money, and so forth. It seems quite reasonable for someone who is giving something away to try to ensure that it is not wasted or spent on things that run contrary to the purpose of the charity. It's a little different when the condition is not directly related to the thing being given, as, for example, when a donor requires that you profess some faith or accept religious tracts before receiving goods or services. It may not be technically wrong, since charity is by definition something that is optional for the giver, but it is something more than just earmarking the donation, and insofar as it takes advantage of the desperate situation of people in need, I think it's at least in poor taste.

We just have to be careful about who's trying to set the hook.

I'm a bit under the weather, and I think I'm running a fever, so I will use that as my excuse for agreeing with Iacchus. Just this once. Don't let it go to your "head.":D

4th January 2006, 02:50 PM
I believe that when you set conditions for goods and services, it's called buying and selling, not charity.

4th January 2006, 02:56 PM
I'm reminded of few things from the Christian perspective other than the Good Samaritan story.

First, there is the desert temptation to turn the stones to bread. Hardly the typical "temptation" of junior high beer consumption. In a sense it seems like a temptation to do a fairly decent thing. After all, couldn't the Jesus as described "feed the world?" Why limit the charity to only...

the second thing, feeding 5,000? Later in the story, the crowds have followed him further and he pretty much shoos them away stating, "You're only here because you got fed."

Again, feeding people isn't such a bad thing is it? So why the boundary? I have thoughts, but not the time to dig into them.