Be radical: share the riches

To the editor,

As we are now in the season of giving, I am hoping that we extend our giving to the poor. Radically and as never before.

Let’s do it because we are rich, radically rich. The richest culture with the richest churches and synagogues and temples in history.

Are we rich? Anyone making $32,400 a year or more is richer than 99 percent of the rest of the planet. (investo pedia.com.) It would be nice to believe that we rich Americans (especially the very richest of our rich) are, naturally, giving more to the poor than ever. The statistics do not agree.

In the Great Recession, those making more than $200,000 per year gave less; those making $100,000 or less gave more (theatlantic.com). It almost always happens. As we get richer, we give less percentage of our incomes. As we get richer, we also tend to donate to the arts, universities, hospitals (foxbusiness.com). The poor? Not as much. For the record, I’m guilty. As my circumstances got better over the years, some how I was giving the same amount but less of a percentage.

Jeffrey Sachs, one of the world’s leading experts on economic development and the fight against poverty, estimates that the cost to end poverty is $175 billion per year for 20 years. This amount is less than 1 percent of the combined income of the richest countries in the world, and only four times the United States military budget for one year (borgen.org).

Americans spent $84.1 billion on golf last year (forbes.com), $56 billion on sporting events, $33 billion for athletic equipment and $19 billion on gym memberships (cnbc.com). Back in 2010, the cost of excessive drinking was $249 billion. U.S alcohol sales in 2018 were $253.8 billion (americancraftbeer.com). I’m guilty, I spent on all those things, and more.

Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, reminds us, there is an “opportunity cost” whenever we fail to seize an opportunity that is worth the investment of our time and resources. When we fail to invest in the wellbeing and fundamental rights of children and young people in need, the opportunity cost is tallied not just in dollars and cents but lives cut short, bodies and minds diminished, and families, communities and nations undermined” (unicef.org).

Are we going to disband our military, quit golf, sports, the gym and drinking? Probably not. But we could all do all of it less (especially the war part) and give more.

One of the most famous and striking scriptural calls to the conscience and responsibilities of the radically rich concludes with this admonishment: “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” It was said to a rich man who had done every other good he could think of and asked, “What else?” We know he wasn’t up to the radical commitment, but I like to think he went and gave more than he had ever given before.

Note that he was not commanded to solve poverty. Or pretend that it was solvable. Or judge it. He was told to give. To help.

My hope is that all of us – church/synagogue/temple goers or not – pray on the “opportunity costs” and then let’s just do it. Let’s give to the poor. Radically. This year and next year and the next.

– Selah, Wayne Sheldrake, Durango