How Much Charity Is Enough?

Dsc_0278   Dsc_0199

Jesus was very specific in saying that His followers need to provide for and protect those who can’t take care of themselves. And He also pointed out that whoever does something good for someone else in His name is effectively doing it for Him.

A good reason to be charitable, don’t you think?

My wife and I contribute a percentage of our income to our church, and part of the church budget helps provide for people having special needs. In times of death or severe illness, we’re also apt to sign up to bring a meal to a family in need. And we have many needy people in our individual prayer lists.

Richmond has a special program called CARITAS. While I can’t remember what the acronym stands for beyond “Churches around Richmond,” I understand their purpose. To try to break the cycle of homelessness for as many people as possible.

Our church is one of many that participate in CARITAS. One week a year, we host forty to fifty homeless adults–sometimes men, sometimes women–in the church fellowship hall. Various Sunday School classes sign up to prepare and serve an evening meal and fix a bag lunch for each of our guests for the next day. Other volunteers come in to fix breakfast.

The Sunday School class my wife and I belong to ministered to our CARITAS visitors last week. As heart-breaking as it is to think about these people being homeless, it’s a real pleasure to extend Christian love to them through our meager efforts.

My wife and I recently spent a long weekend in Washington, D.C. Although I’ve seen an occasional street person in other places I’ve visited, never had I seen such prominent homelessness as I did in our nation’s capital. (See the two pictures above.) It seemed as if many of the benches in every public park–D.C. has a number of them–was occupied by a street person with all of his or her belongings stashed within easy reach.

Nobody asked us for money, and we didn’t feel endangered. But I can’t say that we felt entirely comfortable, either.

Kathleen and I are just average middle class Americans, but to the folks in CARITAS and the street people of Washington, D.C., we probably seemed wealthy.

Jesus’s words about providing for those who can’t provide for themselves are disturbing. Even if we gave every cent we have to help others, it would hardly make a dent in the world’s needs. Yet is it right for us to enjoy so much that so many others don’t have and may never have?

How much charity does Jesus expect us to provide, anyhow? Alas, He’s not here on earth to answer that question, but God’s Holy Spirit is. I suppose we’ll have to pay closer attention to the Spirit and let Him lead us to give when we ought to give and to serve where we ought to serve.

What’s your take on helping the homeless? Have you been involved in any ministry to them? Please share with a comment.


I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website.  Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Go HERE for links to those places.
Best regards,

16 thoughts on “How Much Charity Is Enough?

  1. Excellent post.
    Homelssness is not just a U.S. problem: it is world wide. Here in Colombia there are many homeless people and here too there are private groups and programs designed to lessen the harshness of life on the streets. and I think that’s the key, LESSEN THE HARSHNESS.
    Sometimes I wonder about Jesus and his ministry. Whereas he did at times feed multitudes, it was not a normal function of his ministry. In fact, considering he had the power of 10,000 angels at his command, he certainly did not use that power to eradicate poverty in Isreal. Nope. He even mentioned to his disciples that the poor would always be with them. It just wasn’t a a goal of his work.
    Maybe this teaches us that material things are not as important as spiritual things. I don’t know. But when I consider he had the ability to overflow the land of milk and honey with gold and money and didn’t do it, well, then it didn’t need being done. Just some food here and there to get the people by. Like you guys are doing. You will never eradicte homelessness but you will fulfill and important aspect of your faith by the act of helping people who cannot help you back. This is what I would call faith in action. and remember, faith without works is dead.


  2. I have reblogged your post at For the past five years I share daily with the homeless and hungry. I give bus tickets and $5.00 meal cards from a local coffee shop that also sells sandwiches. Street people who forget my name refer to me as ‘The Coffee Man’. I have written a book based on daily conversations with these people who have become my closest friends. It is available at All proceeds go directly to hungry people on the street and to Ottawa Innercity Ministeries, Street Outreach Project.


  3. In New York City, we have a multitude of homeless people. I see them every day going to and from Port Authority to my office. I sometimes give money to them and spoke at length to a homeless veteran who was afraid to stay at a shelter for fear of the violence. My mother was mentally ill for many years and homeless for 6 months back in the 80’s. Being middle class myself, I know all to well, that it could be me too. If either my husband or I were unemployed, we would no longer be able to pay the mortgage and other bills. Housing needs to be made more affordable in NY and elsewhere, but the powers-that-be also need to start putting people before corporations. FDR said it was our “obligation” to help those less fortunate than ourselves. Not so anymore it seems, sad to say.


  4. I have read several different sources that suggest 10% of one’s income as the ideal amount to donate to charity. The idea is that this seems to be tremendous, but sustainable; people who give 10% are not likely to give so much that they end up losing their own earning power and, subsequently, their ability to give money to those less fortunate; they are also not likely to burn out and simply stop giving anything because it feels too monumental.

    I must admit I sometimes have mixed feelings about counting churches as “charities” for these purposes. I’ve known some churches that did tremendously good work with feeding the poor, contributing to the development of poor communities, etc..

    But how much of one’s contribution will actually be used for these purposes seems unpredictable. I used to go to a church to which people routinely gave thousands of dollars – almost all of which was used to pay the church staff, pay off the church property, and finance travel for local clerics to events overseas.

    I will also admit that I sometimes get a distinctly uncomfortable feeling when churches offer a helping hand to the poor – that seems conditional upon said poor listening to lectures about how their current beliefs and practices are not good enough. I’ve shown up to a few church events in the past (as an invited guest) only to be surprised by a sermon about how I needed to “get saved,” and how only church attendance would offer me salvation.

    Spiritual resources definitely count as a concrete contribution to society…but there seems to be such variation in how selfish or selfless they are. I imagine it varies across Christian denominations as well as across local geographic communities.

    In sum, I applaud the work your church does with the poor. I wish I knew of more churches that made community improvement a priority.

    And don’t feel as though you need to give more than 10%. If you want to take care of society, you have to take care of yourself, too!


  5. If We remember that the word ‘charity’ comes from ‘Caritas,’ which means Love, We will see that there can be NO end to Love, that there can Never be a thing called ‘Enough’ Love, or Too much Love.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.