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The Freedom of the Church

   In my Western Civilization class, I taught the conflict between Bishop Ambrose and the Roman emperor, Theodosius I.  The short story is that Theodosius I became a Christian and then mandated that Christianity was the only religion.  Then Butheric, one of his governors, was killed in a riot at the chariot race.  Theodosius responds by staging a special chariot race and then kills 7,000 spectators in response to the killing of Butheric.  Then he waltzes into church to partake of communion.  But Ambrose will have none of it.  He criticizes the emperor and he forbids him to participate in the communion until he has repented.  Ambrose's statement to Emperor Theodosius was "The emperor belongs to the church, but is not her superior."
Bottom line:  the church is empowered to criticize the state.  She acts as a counter-balance to the state.

How Much Should We Give?

    I have written three blogs on some dangers of charitable giving.  This blog addresses a different question and that is how much should you give?  If  you are expecting a cookie cutter answer, (for my Chinese audience:  one answer that fits all situations), I do not have that insight.  But one thing we should do is to give generously.  In II Corinthians 9 we read
 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.  6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
    their righteousness endures forever.”
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

I will let the Bible speak.  We need to be generous in our giving.

Charitable Giving - Part III

    This is the third in a series on Charitable Giving. 
Before you give, you should know something about that organization.  Look through their financial reports to find out how much they really spend helping people, and don't be fooled by their title.  This week we received an appeal from "Help Hospitalized Veterans."  Who would not want to help our hospitalized veterans?  So I did some research and it is amazing on how little they give to the veterans.  On all websites there should be a financial breakdown.
    They received $24,713,978.  So where did it go?
$3,426, 689 was for salaries for 98 people. But Michael Lynch, the CEO, received a salary of $255,215 in compensation plus $134,368, for a total salary of $389,583.  I am all for a living wage, but that seems excessive.
  Russ Mason, the development director received $196,777 for a salary plus $134,368 in other compensation for a total of $331,145.    Don't forget about the development manager who earned $184,802.  Not too shabby.  And the plant manager earned $147,689.  So the top four paid persons earned just over one million dollars.  Average salary is over $250,000.
   So 94 people they said they employed earned an average of of just under $25,250 per year.  The report did not say how many were full time/part time, but I suspect that they are getting paid pretty close to minimum wage while the directors are living high on the hog.
   "Please be advised that some of the cost of this appeal is regarded by Help Hospitalized Veterans as a public education program rather than a fundraising expense."  So they spent  over $14 million on "education" and fund raising.  Another three million to lawyers.  (Red flag:  Why $3,614,813 to lawyers and legal expenses?)  What did the veterans get?  $3,406,939, or less than 14%, less than they paid to lawyers. 
     Further, their financial report have not been audited.  So Help Hospitalized Veterans is all about themselves, and not helping others.

Bottomline:  Be careful in your giving.  Do some research.  Read their financial reports.

Charitable Giving - Part II

    I wrote an earlier e-mail about charitable giving, but unfortunately another blog is required.  (To read the first blog, just type in "Charitable Giving" in the search engine on the right hand column.) 
       First, many organizations try to put you under pressure to give.  Every appeal is an emergency appeal.  They must not plan their budget very well if every request is an emergency appeal. 
     Second, they will often try to force your hand by saying please respond in the next 48 (or 72 hours) or please respond by a date which is only a few days off.
    Third, they will often try to force your hand by saying "Action Required."
     Fourth, they will often try to force your hand by sending you something and then asking for a donation to give to cover their unwanted, unneeded gift.  Often it is return of address labels or a pad of paper with their name on it so  you keep seeing their name.  I have received hundreds of return of address labels.  Or they will send a calendar.   Sometimes if you have not given for the calendar they will send a follow-up appeal with words like "We just want to make sure you received our calendar."  Then they will ask for a donation covering the calendar, even though you did not ask for it, nor do you want it.
      Fifth, even though you ask to be removed from the list, they will keep sending you appeals.  They say that you will be removed from the mailing list, but it takes 15 days (or 30 or even 45 days) to get removed from their mailing list.  But they keep sending more appeals.  For example, I have mailed to Care 10 letters asking to be removed.  Their response?  I have received 14 letters from them asking for donations.  They obviously have too much money and are very inefficient in their staff.

Bottom line, we are a long way from 2 Kings 12:15:  "They did not require an accounting from those to whom they gave the money to pay the workers, because they acted with complete honesty."
And again:  2 Kings 22:7:  "But they need not account for the money entrusted to them, because they are honest in their dealings.”