September 21, 1993
Siamese twins shared vital organs so one of them had to die that the other might possibly live. Not a happy situation. Aside from the moral and ethical difficulties of the decision made by their parents and the doctors who did the surgery, the father of these twins created another ethical dilemma.
Apparently, money donated by concerned people to pay medical expenses was used for purposes that had little to do with the needs for which they were given. The twin’s father spent some of those funds on drugs to supply a personal addiction. In this case, would those who raised the money have done more good by giving it directly to the hospital?
Granted, anyone under the stresses he no doubt experienced could be expected to make some irrational decisions. We can hope he has found help to overcome his problems. However, this situation raises a question that those who give to charity often have to answer: does giving, in the true sense of the word, mean the recipients can do whatever they please with the gift?
Imagine buying a box of chocolates for another person, only to see them deliberately destroy it. Even if we told them the gift was theirs to do with as they pleased, we might feel a sense of outrage or at least disappointment. However, if the other person had an extreme allergy to chocolate, we would think twice about giving that kind of gift. True giving wants to benefit the receiver, not harm them.
This parallels some questions I’ve had to work through when asked for handouts. We used to live in a former manse next to a large church near a railway yard. At least once a week, people came to my door with one of several questions. If they asked for food, I gave them something to eat out on the large front veranda. If they asked for the pastor (whom I had never met), I gave them a small booklet about the love of God, with the pastor’s home address on the back.
But, if they asked for money, usually making it clear they “needed” it for alcohol, I refused. In that case, I thought my charity would hurt more than help them. Sometimes I would offer a meal instead, but they usually refused my offer. They were not interested in food.
It is not always easy to refuse money to someone who wears rags for clothes and looks as if they have not eaten properly for years. Some may feel it is “unloving” to deny their request; however, I’ve learned to take my cues from God. He “loves us with an everlasting love” yet never grants us that which will bring us harm or destruction.
God is such an excellent Giver because He does love us, but also because He intimately knows us and our needs. If our intentions or plans are unhealthy, He says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
This implies two things about giving. Love must be behind the giving, but knowing the recipient and their real needs is part of the process too. For me, it was easy to assess that those asking for booze-money DID NOT need it, but aside from knowing they needed good food and a lot of care, had I opportunity, I would have discovered far deeper needs than those visible on the surface.
Because getting to know needy people is not easy, most of us give through agencies, hoping they understand whether our gifts will be misused, abused, or inappropriate. But face-to-face giving is far better. When we understand hurts and know weaknesses, we realize a gift of several thousand dollars is just too large a temptation for a person with a drug habit.