When asked why they aren’t more generous with their time or money, many people answer that if they gave more, it would be at the expense of their own children. Sure, the argument goes, it would be great if I could pay an extra $100 to provide immunizations for kids in Africa, but my first duty is to my family, and giving that $100 for immunizations would prevent me from taking my kids to the water park.
Everyone presumably agrees that Christianity imposes some limits on advantaging our own kids over others. Imagine a Christian dad stranded on a deserted island with two toddlers, one his daughter, the other unrelated. We would certainly feel the father had failed his Christian duty should he explain that the reason he hadn’t given food or water to the unrelated child was because doing so would have taken time away from making a play drum set for his child. To reject his rationale we do not need to deny that he has an obligation to his daughter or that musical talents are important.
The deserted island hypothetical is clear-cut because (1) both children rely completely on the adult, (2) the consequences to the unrelated child are high, and (3) the value of the drum set is low. Determining at what points those three factors combine to become un-Christian is the interesting question.
Does the fact that I’m not the only one who could pay to immunize African children make it less immoral for me to buy my kid a PlayStation instead? How much does it matter that the African children I’d immunize aren’t at risk of immediate death? How much does it matter if I’m spending the money on something better than a drum set? (I’ll ignore for now the question of how much we can spend on houses, cars, vacations, etc., and still claim it’s “for the kids.”)
What presents Christians the toughest hurdle justifying their advantaging their own kids over others is knowing that Christ considers every person, especially the least among us, to be Him. The unrelated child on the deserted island is God. The African child who has diptheria today because I spent the money that would have immunized him on a play kitchen set for my girls, is God. (Of course this is less painful to me because I don’t know which kid would have been immunized had I bought more immunizations, and I can hope that none of the kids I would have immunized have contracted the disease. Ignorance is bliss. This relief is similar to knowing that no one else, including none of our readers, paid to have him immunized, either. And of course I’m relieved most of all that the person who got diptheria because I bought a kitchen set is not me.)
So the next time you’re tempted to justify your failure to help needy children by saying it would reduce what you provide for your kids, remember that in choosing to give your children a play kitchen set, or to take them to the museuam, you’re choosing to let God get diptheria.