We opened our series on the Giving Pledge with the Guardian’s Peter Wilby offering a recommendation for a modified giving pledge. Note in particular today the concluding sentence of Wilby’s commentary:
If the rich really wish to create a better world, they can sign another pledge: to pay their taxes on time and in full; to stop lobbying against taxation and regulation; to avoid creating monopolies; to give their employees better wages, pensions, job protection and working conditions; to make goods and use production methods that don’t kill or maim or damage the environment or make people ill. When they put their names to that, there will be occasion not just for applause but for street parties.
It’s staggering, really, how much of the philanthropy in the Bible ends up quite literally rolling out into the street. Whether with Levi, Zaccheus, the Banquet Feast of The Lamb, or dozens of other philanthropic episodes, street parties are part and parcel of Christianity-as-philanthropy.
Philanthrocapitalists might puzzle over the following street party and, in light of Givewell’s most-lives-saved-for-the-least-money calculus, struggle to compute the philanthropy of the Son of God who tells it:
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’
This is not the most lives saved for the least money. This is a parable that shrugs off the notion of scarcity the way that contemporary philanthropy shrugs off the efficacy of self-emptying personal relationship.
Notes Luther, with additional commentary from Torvend (p. 65):
“It is necessary that you…deal with your neighbor in the very same way [as Christ has dealt with you], be given also to [the neighbor] as a gift and an example.” The Christian is taught by Christ, albeit in a “loving and friendly way,” what to do in the world. Passive in the reception of Christ as gift, the Christian is to become active in service to the neighbor in need because such work fulfills the commands of Christ, actually benefits the neighbor, and tests the authenticity of faith, that gift itself that rules and guides one’s living in the world with other persons.
Amen, amen, amen.