The other day a friend of mine showed me yet another video that’s been making the rounds designed to raise social consciousness and create a desire to give to the less fortunate. The idea behind it is people living in the developing world voicing so-called first world problems in an effort to show us how ridiculous our complaints are in perspective.
I appreciate the effort that went into making this piece (even if I’m not a fan of the execution), and it got me thinking—just probably not about what they were hoping it would.
There is a great deal of ungodly excess within the “first world,” no question about it. Only a fool would try to say otherwise.
And if you don’t believe me, I give you exhibit A: the Double-down—
But we must be careful that we don’t let ungodly excess rob us of the enjoyment of the legitimate good gifts God has given us.
My children never have to wonder if there’s going to be food on the table because God provides it for us by giving me a job that pays for all our needs. They have clothes and toys and books and all these wonderful things that they are free to enjoy responsibly.
But they’re also increasingly aware that not everyone has what they have. Our oldest is delighted every time I give her money to give to the fund for the children of the Nepalese congregation our church supports. She knows the names of our Compassion-sponsored children and sometimes draws pictures for them. These are things we’re hoping to encourage and nurture in all our children.
The thing about “first world problems” is there’s this idea that we should feel bad about all that we have, as though anything beyond the basic necessities is inherently evil. But this goes too far (except possibly in the case of the aforementioned Double-Down).
There’s something going on here that we need to be mindful of. Very often when we see appeals centered around “haves” and “have-nots”—keeping up with the Joneses, first world problems, all that sort of thing—the purpose is to motivate you to give to a particular cause… usually by making you feel guilty about what you have.
To condemn you and get you to perform an act of contrition in order to assuage your guilt.
This is nothing less than extortion.
Paul is exceedingly clear in 2 Cor. 9 (something I’ve written on many times here on the blog and in Awaiting a Savior) that giving should never be under compulsion, but all should give as he or she has decided in his or her heart, “not reluctantly or under compulsion” (2 Cor. 9:7)—that is, it should be freely and joyfully given—”for God loves a cheerful giver.”
We should always be willing to both challenge ourselves and be challenged from outside us about our giving and spending habits, but let’s be careful that we never succumb to something as crass and anti-gospel as guilting others into giving.