We are commanded to give to the poor and needy. Ancient and modern scriptures are clear on that. But are there clear priorities when choosing how to distribute our offerings? Let me give you a hypothetical situation to see what you think.
Imagine a young LDS family that takes seriously their responsibility to care for the poor and needy. They adhere to a strict budget annually and based on their annual income and the costs of living they have decided they can stretch themselves and give $100 per month to the poor and needy. This is a lot of money for this young family because they have children and a single income, plus debts they are trying to pay off. That $1200 per year represents nearly 2% of their annual gross income and it is given on top of the 10% tithing they already pay. But they feel that they have been blessed already and want to obey God and help those that are in need so that is their plan even though it is a real sacrifice for them. This offering is given through fast offerings at their ward.
But then a natural disaster (like Hurricane Katrina) strikes. Their hearts ache for those distressed people they see on TV that have lost everything. There is a drive at the husband’s company to donate to the Red Cross to aid victims. The company even offers to match donations from employees. The family is totally maxed out as to what they can give to the poor in terms of amount, but they consider diverting some of that $1200 per year to this victim’s aid fund through work. The young couple discusses reasons to divert the funds or not:
“Everyone at work knows I’m a Mormon so if we diverted money to that fund perhaps we could make the church look good and help the poor at the same time. But then again, shouldn’t our giving be anonymous? Would that sort of defeat the spiritual purpose of giving if we are trying to get some sort of missionary-based marketing out of it? But it is hard to give fast offerings and have no real idea of who is receiving – giving to a fund like this is in some ways more emotionally rewarding. But then again, shouldn’t we have faith in the discernment of the judges of Israel to make inspired decisions on how to best help the poor? We can’t count on that kind of discernment and divine intervention with the relief fund…” And so the discussion goes.
What do you think? What advice would you give this young couple?