The Silent Voice – Part 1

by | May 29, 2014 | Book of James | 0 comments

I struggled with this blog over the last 2 weeks. As harsh realities regarding financial decisions are being made at all levels, the voice of those most affected tends to be silenced, even neglected. Charities are not exempt from failing to hear the voice of the silent.

“While Canadians donate roughly $8-billion in total annually, according to Statistics Canada, the number of donors has been falling steadily. Today about 22 per cent of tax filers claim a charitable donation; that compares to more than 30 per cent in the 1990s. The median gift has gone up and is now around $260, meaning fewer people are giving more money” (Globe and Mail, Mar.21/13). The Federal Government, in their recent budget, are seeking to stimulate Canadians to greater financial involvement in charitable giving by offering increased non-refundable tax credits. Though the intent is good there is a flaw in their logic. Charitable giving tends to be based, not on the receiving of a tax credit to reduce tax payable but on disposable income. The average Canadian currently owes about $165 for every $100 earned which simply means that families are far extended beyond their income base. The desire to give may be present but the harsher realities of other financial commitments places charitable giving much lower on the priority list. The fact is that people are “drowning” in debt.

Charities are not exempt from “drowning” in debt. Overextended budgets coupled with decreased cash flow are forcing tough decisions upon boards and trustees. No charity wants to reduce their own level of involvement in charitable purposes. No one wishes to lay off gifted staff members. Yet all one has to do is a google search and see that there is a contraction in finances and services. Charities, unlike governments, cannot increase taxes to offset shortfalls. Emotional pleas are often only effective to the faithful but giving, motivated by guilt, loses both the value and blessing attached to it.

In this quest to meet both the fixed expenditures and the ongoing charitable activities, given the decrease in the donor base and the decrease in disposable income, more attention is being given to people who have the resources necessary to maintain the aims of the charity. What can happen and does happen is a subtle shift away from seeing the charity, and in this case the church, as being for all people and creating a caste system between those who have and those who have not.

Some would be quick to defend their position that the church is for all and all are welcome. But are they? You have two new people attend on a given Sunday. One is a mother with two small children and drives into the parking lot in a clunking mini van.  The other is a lawyer and his family in a Mercedes. Follow the conversation, especially post-service. Follow the conversation, especially among the leadership. Which family would people gravitate towards? Which family would the leadership tend to trip over to make welcome? Which family would be seen as being able to advance the purposes, especially financially of the charity?

We are all guilty of making value judgements based on externals and not the issues of the heart. We can easily be seduced into thinking that  a white collar family is more successful in their life than a single parent mother and yet is this so? I have known many single parent families who are quite successful in parenting, even with meager resources. I have also known many professional people who are as equally successful in raising well-rounded children. Both are as equally important in God’s Kingdom!

James addresses this mindset that tends to value one over the other. He speaks of two people who come to church. One is clothed in finery with a gold ring. The other is  a poor man clothed in filthy clothes. The leadership favors the one wearing the fine clothes and invites him to sit “in a good place”. The poor man is told “to stand there” or “sit here at my footstool”. James simply is not impressed by their showing of partiality or favoritism but neither would he be impressed in our day. In fact he calls this judging “with evil thoughts”. Such partiality is based, not on the value placed upon that person by God, but on our own evaluations of who or what constitutes success. Yet to do so is to silence the voice of those who do not fit into our concept of success.

We can too easily define charitable purposes, our reason to exist, by the externals: buildings, budgets or programs. Yet the apostle Paul reminds us that “those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor … that the members should have the same care for one another” (1 Cor.12:23-25).

A Chinese proverb says “that a bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song”. Each has a song to sing, regardless of social or economic status.



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Please know that I love to speak with my Father and to bring others before Him in prayer. I have this unfailing belief that He both hears and answers the prayers of His children.
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Dave Griggs, MDiv

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