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  • Writer's pictureKen Kowach

Why is Charity Important? The benefits of giving (and why you shouldn’t wait till you’re rich)

Growing up my parents raised me to understand that tithing was an important aspect of our faith. As I grew older, I started to formulate the idea that tithing isn’t a Christian institution. Technically it isn’t. (The early Christian church shared all that they had amongst each other.) Tithing isn’t exactly what this article is about though.

As I grew older though, I started to understand the value of charitable giving. It has been very beneficial in constantly reminding me that I am far more fortunate than the vast majority of the world.

Before I begin though, I just want to throw this chart out there, just to showcase how charitable the United States is, even though we get labeled with “American Greed”.

These are the top 10 most charitable nations in the world in billions of dollars. Sorry, the data was from the Gross Domestic Philanthropy report from 2016, I couldn't find anything newer from the Charities Aid Foundation.

gross domestic philanthropy in dollars

If there is one thing that I love, its graphs. 😌

"Giving some of our money to charity, no matter how little, is always important because it is a consistent reminder that there are always people in need, and we should not forget about them, or place the responsibility on others to shoulder our own social responsibility."

Bottom Line Up Front

There are a lot of reasons to give some of our time and money to charity. These include plenty of healthy benefits and psychological benefits. We can expect an improvement in self-esteem, satisfaction, and improved blood pressure and much more.

Still, we should remember the importance of our informal contract with others in our society. Social responsibility is crucial to the integrity and wellbeing of our civilization and humanity.

Also, is it more important to give money to charity or give our time to charity to charitable work? It depends, and it isn’t dependent on whether you’re wealthy or not. Keep reading to hear me out.


Health Benefits

hands formed together with red heart paint

Giving your time and money has physical and psychological health benefits. There are plenty of articles that can go in-depth about all of the studies done on the health benefits of charitable giving and charitable work.

The list is long, but some key highlights are reduced depression, increased self-esteem, and satisfaction, lower stress levels, longer life, reduced BMI, reduced LDL, and reduced blood pressure. I found this article from Cleveland Clinic useful for added reading, and this article from Rush useful as well.

It seems strange because it is almost counterintuitive to happiness. We think that we will be happier with more money, and so if we give our money away, we will be less happy. Oddly enough though the opposite is the case. Apparently, the mesolimbic center, which is the reward center of the brain, is activated when we give and receive.

And here’s my sneaking suspicion. If you have read enough of my articles, you will have learned that I am a big proponent of supporting meaning over happiness. I think that pursuing meaning is a lot healthier and fulfilling over pursuing happiness. I would even say that happiness is a byproduct of meaning.

That would explain why we can be happier when we give our time and money in charitable ways because it gives us fulfillment and meaning.


Foster Social Responsibility of individuals

homeless man holding sign seeking human kindness

If nothing else matters, charity is important simply because of social responsibility.

This blog isn’t a political one, and I don’t want to polarize anybody one way or the other, especially on social programs that the government provides. What I will say is that I am a big supporter of people caring for others in general.

If some people feel that social programs are important to them and this society, then that’s fine. The underlying importance of caring for others needs to be the foundation. Just the same, if the other side of the spectrum doesn’t believe in government social programs, then understand the implied increased responsibility of the members of that society.

It all boils down to learning how to genuinely care for the people who are down and out. There are plenty of reasons but drug and alcohol addiction, differences in opportunities in growing up, legal disadvantages, and much more. There are thousands of reasons for people to care for those less fortunate.

And, with all the bickering of whether the reality of people being disadvantaged for whatever reason aside, just simply accept reality at face value that sometimes people just need help, and that includes ourselves. We should always be willing to offer it.

Nowadays, going to seek help for psychological reasons is looked at positively. We should learn to treat people the same financially.


Which means more, giving your time or your money?

Is doing charity work more beneficial or is giving money?

It depends, but first, let’s define what money is.

Money is the value of effort that has been converted into a commonly accepted note. That sounds weird, I know.

Okay, so when we exert some sort of physical labor or function and depending on the supply and demand of given economic conditions, we will get varying amounts of money for our efforts, and in the United States, that equates to Federal Reserve Notes.

A note is an IOU, and the IOU in the United States is an IOU from the US central bank known as the Federal Reserve. Take a look at the red box, since most people don’t realize it is right on the dollar bill…

one dollar bill federal reserve note

The point is, that is all that money actually is. I’ve heard arguments that without the gold standard, money is worthless. Gold is just as worthless too though. They’re all only worth something because of the agreed-upon value of whatever that particular item is to people… That’s a whole separate conversation that would need to be had.

For the purposes of this conversation though, money is simply just converted exerted labor, and yes it is true that some people exert a lot less work for a lot more money, but that is up to economics typically. So let’s bring it on home. Charitable work or charitable giving?

If you are financially unable to give converted effort (money), you should be donating your own personal effort, since you do not possess any stored up effort in the form of cash. That’s my simple straightforward answer.

Even still, donating your own personal effort can be very beneficial. Even with a veritable mountain of wealth, it is important to give our own time and effort to charity. Here’s why.

I spoke about time (The Great Equalizer) in my article about passive income. If you want to fast forward to it, scroll to reason number two in that article, and I break it down a bit more. Essentially though, time is “the Great Equalizer” meaning that it is what all of us have equally from a metaphorical perspective. We don’t get more than 24 hours in a day.

If we are incredibly wealthy, giving some of our money to a charity might not provide the “sting” of giving, which I believe is something important that helps ground us when we get carried away with our love for money and distaste for other humans.

With time, the sting is always there. There’s no way we can accumulate more of it, and we can never get it back. If giving money doesn’t mean much, the benefits, in my opinion, will be minimal. Giving our highly valuable time should produce a lot more bang for your buck, so to speak.

Also, it helps when you put a face to the ones that are down and out. When we can directly help people and build a relationship, no matter how short of a relationship, it still makes an impact on us as humans. We are built with a social requirement as none of us can survive alone.

Okay then, doing charitable work is very important. Well, what about money. Shouldn’t we wait until we’re financially independent to give our money to charitable causes?


Should you be charitable once you’re wealthy?

person showing both hands with make a change note and coins

This question is primarily focused on the charity of donating converted effort (cash). Obviously, the question wouldn’t be asking in regards to donating our own time and effort, since that goes without saying, we have a social responsibility, which I’ve already discussed.

Personally, I subscribe to the school that says we should be charitable now with our money and not when we are wealthy, no matter how much or how little extra cash we have each month.

There is a very important difference in nuance as to why I believe this. Some of the big guys like Dave Ramsey talk about giving to charity and becoming a philanthropist as the last step in the baby steps to financial freedom. Sorry, Mr. Ramsey, I disagree.

I understand why Dave Ramsey and others have it programmed this way. My problem with it is we miss out on the valuable lessons that charitable giving can teach us along the way to financial independence.

Trust me, every time I parcel out the portion of my paychecks to my church, I have that voice in the back of my head telling me how much I could put that money to use in ways to generate more wealth, or pay off my house early, etc, etc.

What if I never reach what I feel is “financial independence”? Also, if I go out to eat every Sunday for a family meal, and we spend $50 on that family meal, can I really not spare a little bit of money to be given to my church, or whatever charitable cause I feel is valuable to me?

I don’t think so. Giving some of our money to charity, no matter how little, is always important because it is a consistent reminder that there are always people in need, and we should not forget about them, or place the responsibility on others to shoulder our own social responsibility.

I genuinely believe that the amount that we give isn’t important. What matters is what it means to the individual. If I give a million dollars to charity, and I know that I did it to strategically offset my tax liability, and I don’t really care where it goes because it is simply to better line my own pockets, and isn’t about the people in need, then it means infinitely less than that single mother who gives two dollars a week to charity, because she is transformed each time she gives.

She is teaching herself social responsibility.

It’s the point that the Nazarene was trying to get across some 2000 years ago, in the Story of the Widow’s Two Mites.

“Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”

Final Word

Giving our time and money to charity is important. Yes, there are definite health benefits and psychological benefits, and that’s great.

To me though, the importance of social responsibility is paramount to how we act and ultimately treat each other as humans.

We should constantly be looking for ways to help others, even if they’re seemingly simple or mundane. If somebody needs the door held open, we should do it. If somebody looks like they need a ride, ask them. If we have a charitable cause near and dear to our hearts, we should contribute. If we value the integrity and wellbeing of our society, we should contribute, physically and monetarily.


The Woke Hack


Time to Pay it Forward

Feel free to comment down below with your thoughts on charitable work and giving. Also, if you do give your time and/or money, share how that has helped you personally!

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