Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Be Wise About How You Give

African governments are reputed to be riddled with corruption. Lest I say more than I ought, I’ll continue by saying that each time I teach, I take the opportunity to include a discussion about ethics. I assume nothing about ethical position of even (or especially) pastors. What I learned about these specific pastors is that they are keenly aware of what some people do in the name of God and they are tired and frustrated by the injustice.

The pastors at this conference see unethical people telling untrue stories so that they will receive funding for their pet projects, which actually turns out only to line their personal pockets. Meanwhile these pastors and their families go uneducated, their water makes people sick, and their farms cannot grow enough food to sustain them.

The real frustration comes when they see American churches handing over crazy huge sums of money – sums that are sometimes quadruple actual costs – to these undeserving pastors with no accountability system in place. They hand over large sums in the name of building a school or church, or in the name of educating nonexistent children, and fail to include any kind of accountability standards…sometimes they even turn a blind eye to how that money is used. Boasting about helping the poor in Africa so as to receive a jewel in the crown makes everyone feel good.

I wonder, though. I wonder if we can receive that jewel if we refuse to engage with the recipients or if we refuse to really hold them accountable. How can pastors who are authentic, transparent, wise, and truthful access the funding needed to meet their community’s needs when competing with those who are willing to tell the stories that bring in the money regardless of the truth of these stories. Africans don’t help themselves by behaving unethically and American’s don’t help themselves or others by being undiscerning.

Please…give, but be smart about how you give.