C.S. Lewis on Giving

C. S. Lewis 5In his Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis lays out what he believes should be a measuring line for how Christians are to give to those in need. Here is his guideline:

Charity—giving to the poor—is an essential part of Christian morality. . . . I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditures on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc. is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little.

Christian CharitiesIf our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.

So Christians are to be leaders in demonstrating selflessness in giving. However, Lewis also points out the ultimate goal in all this giving in another of his books, The Four Loves:

The proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift.

I think it’s important for Christians to comprehend that statement. It bleeds over into public policy. If we support programs that hand out funds to the needy, but those programs don’t successfully free a person from being one of the needy, but rather become traps that create a permanent underclass in society, we are not really living up to the Biblical standard. Compassion has to be wise; the goal should be freedom from want.

I have another Lewis quote I’d like to highlight today, and while it’s not on the same topic precisely, it does clearly explain what our attitude toward life as a whole ought to be. In an essay titled “Cross-Examination” in God in the Dock, Lewis reminds us,

The great thing is to be found at one’s post as a child of God, living each day as though it were our last, but planning as though our world might last a hundred years.

May the Lord find us all at our posts, being faithful, regardless of whether today marks His return or whether we will go to Him before That Day.