The paradox of making money through charity

Some time back in 2006, when I started this column, I had the privilege of seeing the purse of one pastor from a church that has branches across Malawi and the globe. This pastor was earning less than K5 000 a month.

Yes, I mean five thousand kwacha. This was a pastor who had a family of four children then. He was a full-time pastor who continued to fully dedicate his life to service. A man with a calling. Tears dripped down my cheeks. I simply could not believe it.

I then vowed to send the little money I got from Nation Publications Limited for writing this column towards a Pastors’ Fund for that church with some augmentation. This little money does make a difference in the pastors’ lives. Their prayers do in turn support me in my daily livelihood—I can count myself privileged. I also realised over time when I studied life of the world’s rich that charity is part of their life. They give to the less privileged. I don’t know how it works but it really works magic for them. They grow richer and richer.

Charity—in fact, giving of any kind—is often hard to explain in a general sense. Many people fail to see the purpose of giving. “What does it gain for me?” they’ll ask, and it’s difficult to point to how charity brings you a discrete, specific, calculable return.

Instead, giving is a reflection of what truly matters to you in the world. It’s your opportunity to actually make a tangible difference in an area that matters to you. Seeing that your effort has created change in someone’s life, or created slight change in a lot of lives, is incredibly powerful.

Sometimes it can feel overwhelming; there are so many things out there that deserve a gift that it’s easier to fall into inaction—you can’t decide, so you choose to do nothing at all.

Just because a reason to give is worthwhile doesn’t mean that it’s the one you have to give to. Spend some time figuring out what matters the most to you. Is it the environment? Is it education? Is it children? Is it poverty in your community? It could be any of these or something else.

Giving has a profound secret: When you give to something that truly matters to you, you feel incredibly good. That good feeling radiates throughout your life. People pick up on your good feelings and they respond better to you and more financial opportunities open up.

Our actions cause many, many things to happen, many of which we don’t see. Giving of ourselves freely in a positive way sends out ripples of good events, and over time, those ripples come back to you and to everyone you care about. You might not see the direct effect, but those indirect effects echo throughout your life.

It is not uncommon to get a job not just because you are competent but because your dad was so good to some of the job panelists. Your spirit of charity could bring more resources for your children in years to come. Remember charity is not just about giving money but even your goodness.

Give what you can, without regrets. The positive benefits echo throughout your life, the lives of everyone you care about, and lives you’ve never crossed. Walk away knowing that the work of your life has gone to truly make the world a better place and watch your personal finances grow in waves.

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