Christians Who Just Can’t Afford to Give to Charity

Christians Who Just Can’t Afford to Give to Charity by Al Blazek for Russian-Faith

Some Christians can afford to give donations to the poor. Others cannot afford to give anything, because their existing bills and family obligations are simply too overwhelming. This state of affairs is undeniable. But what is the underlying cause?

Christ wants us be generous, caring for those who are poor, sick, and imprisoned. In the Gospel of Matthew, we all know the story Jesus told about the Sheep and the Goats. What are the real challenges people so often face, making it difficult to fulfill Christ’s teachings about Christian charity?

Let’s take a look at two different groups of Christians — the Normals and the Frugals. We will consider their different approaches to everyday life, and observe the consequences experienced by both.

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The Normals spend like a normal American family. They use debt to obtain material things and experiences they could otherwise not attain currently.

The Frugals rarely spend on anything other than absolute needs unless they have cash, and even then revolve their lives around finding experiences and possessions that give them similar enjoyment for a fraction of the cost.

Let’s look at the largest areas of spending for each of them, and how it impacts their non-financial decision-making.

1. Automotive

The Normals tend to buy cars on credit. Many lease, which leads to a cycle of perpetual debt for their cars (as well as much higher insurance rates, which are attached to cars that are leased or financed vs. owned outright).

The Frugals buy late-model reliable vehicles. They pay cash and aim to spend no more than 10% of their annual gross income on a vehicle no more than every 5 years (for a two-car family). They spend more, ironically, on maintenance. A lot more. They change the fluids, belts, filters, etc. on the appropriate schedule even if nothing seems amiss. In exchange, their 8-12 year old vehicles with 100K+ miles (when purchased) last another 10+ years.

2. Clothing

The Normals buy almost everything at retail. They may look for sales, but do not consider used clothing, seeing it as something only poor people buy. They normally would not be caught dead at a thrift store unless it’s for a vintage piece of clothing that cannot be bought new. They periodically use credit cards whose balance they don’t pay off in full each month. Hand-me-downs are used sparingly or shunned, and even their children wear designer clothing.

The Frugals start with thrift stores and work their way up to retail, going through consignment stores for items that are unavailable in thrifts (largely modest and maternity clothing for ladies). They frequent garage sales and buy well in advance of their needs when a great deal appears, stashing it away for the months or even years ahead when they know such high quality clothing will be needed. They are indifferent to labels and brands….except insofar as those brands have longevity and can be used by multiple household members.

3. Entertainment

The Normals take a vacation or two a year, staying at costly hotels, taking in experiences that usually cost money. They have full cable TV packages, even though the spiritual and material deterioration from both is palpable. They feel embarrassed using coupons when dining out, or in using Groupon or other cut-deal specials. They buy books that they read once and then give away or put on a shelf.

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