Charitable Extortion!

charitable extortion

TheDiscipleMD

We are coming to an end of a season that is known for its charitable giving.  However, the two words charitable and extortion,  are two words and concepts that don’t belong together.  Among various definitions the word “charity” has always meant to me the voluntary giving of something, be it time, money, energy, etc., to a good cause.  With the word “voluntarily” being key. Wikipeida defines “extortion” as  “when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property, or services from a person through coercion.” When you bring these two words together, you essentially have the plan of Satan that was presented in the grand council. While I don’t yet recall that “grand council”, in which all of us participated, I do recall having a similar plan presented a number of years ago while attending a professional meeting.

There were about twenty of us attending a week long class on insurance in Columbus, Ohio. There were many presenters of ideals & concepts by professionals. At the end of the week long conference, we, as employees of the company, were given a presentation by one of the managers on a charity that was sponsored by our company. The presentation was short and concise and donations cards were then passed to all the participants. He told us it was important for us to contribute and that it was voluntary. He then did something unexpected. He began with the first employee, pointed at him, and said, “how much are you going to contribute on a biweekly basis?” I could tell it caught this fellow off guard. He looked uncomfortable but blurted out a dollar figure. The manager continued down the row asking each class participant pointedly, the same question. Each looked like they were caught in a most uncomfortable position. As the manager made his way towards me, my anger began to grow and I felt it was totally inappropriate to put people on the spot and essentially get a “charitable donation by extortion.”

I was about midway in the class. As the gentlemen in front of me gave his, “extorted pledge”, the pressure to give had mounted. Everyone had made some monetary pledge up to that point. Mustering all the courage I could, I responded with a resounding, “Nothing”, when the manager pointed at me. The room went quiet, and the manager gave me a stare of disdain. He hesitated, then, showing his obvious disgust,  moved to the next classmate. I was feeling very embarrassed, and I’m sure that I turned a little red. Yet, I didn’t feel that what the manager was doing was right! How did he know of the financial circumstances of those in the room? It was clear he was using intimidation and group shame as a way of coercing everyone to give. Then, I heard the man next to me also say, “Nothing”, when asked how much he would pledge. I looked at him and he looked back at me. Nothing was said, but a silent message was exchanged. It was clear he had been given courage by my response. Then I heard the next person say, “Nothing’, then another followed up with a response of “Nothing”, then another said “Nothing”. A “Nothing” response continued through the rest of the entire class. The instructor looked peeved, but didn’t say a word. He collected the cards and left the room.

“Nothing” was said by any of us about the incident. “Nothing” needed to be said! While I think “charitable” giving is wonderful, I don’t believe it should be “forced” or “extorted” by someone. At that point, it is not charitable giving, it’s just being forced to do something good. This was the plan of Satan, to force us to do good. Little is really gained by this type of plan. No joy or happiness comes to the giver, and lives are not often changed. Many people feel our government does the same thing as this manager did by “extorting” charitable giving through taxation. I don’t know if I would go so far as to say that,  but I believe that this type of forced giving is best expressed by Paul in his epistle to the Corinthians, “But this I say, He that soweth sparingly, shall reap sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Everyman according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly; or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9: 6-7).

Perhaps the manager who put our class on the spot felt he was doing a good thing. After all, he was getting people to give to a worthy cause.  And, maybe I should have just gone with the flow.  Yet to me, while the end result seemed to be good, the method seemed to be out of line. The plan of salvation as presented by our Father and His son Jesus Christ was supported by all of us that are now residing on the earth.  Satan’s plan of “charitable extortion” was rejected. It would do us well, this time of year,  to remember this when dealing with others. We can encourage and teach, but “extorting” others to be charitable, or shaming others to do good by any reason other than by persuasion and long-suffering is really not the Lord’s way.

 

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