Freedom: Escaping the Philanthropy Trap

Somehow we’ve hero-ized giving when we’re guided in clear language regarding giving “when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” You may recognize these words from Jesus and yet, they are hard to follow in our success and credit seeking world. Our self justifying ways regarding philanthropy whether outward or even within our own beings, is yet another manifestation of our economic idolization and a sure way to forget the humility we are all called to practice on our spiritual journeys.

Often, would be philanthropists may indeed be prisoners of their money and or resources. They may be trapped, perhaps ensnared, in a spiritual sense and without an awareness about the need to, let alone the means to escape, under normal circumstances.

Yet there is a way out but it depends on the would be enablers to not see donors and beneficiaries but see soulful beings on a journey in this place and time.

How one gives, not only the act itself, but also how one thinks and feels, what story one tells themself, and how someone engages internally with their giving, matters.

The way you give and the attitude in which you give will determine if you free yourself through your giving or if you ensnare others in the process.

And, enablers, don’t keep thinking it’s simply your job to get people to give to your cause. Without some courage to talk to people openly about their own soulfulness and how wealth potentially obstructs their own spiritual journey, you may be reinforcing the bars of their prison, making the walls thicker, extending their sentence. Further, you may unwittingly find yourself sharing a cell with them.

As a fundraiser, if you do not recognize people as spiritual beings, potentially trapped within their own materialistic and resource rich prison, you are missing your calling to be loving and supportive and to support all people with dignity, even those with great material wealth. The wealthy may be the most needy… spiritually speaking.

Those of you who might receive a gift, from a benefactor, no matter who they are… be careful that you do not give your freedom away by entering into the prison with the unaware prisoner bearing gifts. You can trust that inner feeling of being entrapped, disrespected, giving away your dignity, or being locked in. Run from those gifts that aren’t truly gifts (given with true humility) run from those prisoners of wealth who are unable or unwilling to see. Often they’re disguised so well as philanthropists their costumes even fool themselves.

Without careful spiritual discernment, our possessions can possess us.

In some cases you might be able to help free a prisoner of wealth through maintaining you’re own dignity but be careful… the allure of the wealthy life being better is dangerous. And once you’re on the inside, it’s hard to remember what freedom even feels like. Wealth can be a well formed disguise, and often the costume is so well conceived over decades that the prisoner doesn’t realize their own chains and cell.

(The rich young ruler asked) …”what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (thinking he had already done all the “right things”) the young ruler said “All these I have kept since I was a boy,”

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

NIV Bible – Luke 18:22-27

So realize, would be fundraisers and potential beneficiaries… by accepting a gift given the wrong way or with the wrong intent, you may be condemning people you call donors in ways you never imagined.

Absent humility, giving becomes entrapment for both giver and receiver.

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