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Ebenezer Scrooge: My Funny Valentine

Posted By on March 18, 2017

By Teri Ong

My husband and I are on a two-day Valentine retreat. He saw some cut white roses and a pot of live red roses and couldn’t decide which to get me, so he got both! While he was at the store getting flowers, the checkout person wanted to know if he was playing the mega-million supermarket game, and if he wanted pieces. This led to our discussion of what we really want from a retail store– the lowest prices without a percentage of OUR money going to prize pay outs.

This thought led to evaluating the common practice of asking customers to “round up” to the nearest dollar for the charity du jour. This takes extra time at the checkout and lays a guilt trip on you if you are too stingy to give fifty-nine cents to medical research or needy children. [thought– does that count as a “micro-aggression”?] Then, within minutes of that conversation, I was reading a feature in a magazine about a woman with a boutique that is part of the “shopping without guilt” movement. When you buy things at her store, you get upscale one-of-a-kind items, AND you “do good” because she donates 7% of her profit to a variety of charities.

I wonder how she would take it if I asked for a 7% rebate if I didn’t want to donate to “Gophers Unlimited” or “Save the Pine Nut” this week. I already shop without guilt by carefully selecting and pricing things we need. And we already give above and beyond our church tithe to help meet a variety of worthy needs. My goal is to be as frugal as possible so I can use my own resources in the way I see fit. I now steer away from places that are going to use an extra portion of my money to give prizes or support causes that don’t fit my criteria.

C. S. Lewis thought it was unfortunate that the Greek word for “love” in 1 Corinthians 13 was translated as “charity” in certain English Bible translations. The semantic distinction in that well-known passage reinforces a false dichotomy and faulty notions about love and charity. Charity, as we use the word, should be given as an act of love, not out of compulsion. (2 Cor. 9:7) And love should cause us to do acts of “charity” when we see people truly in need. (James 2:15-17)

In Dickens’ novelette A Christmas Carol, two men come into Scrooge’s place of business seeking donations for the poor and needy at Christmas time. They ask Scrooge what they can put him down for. He replies, “Nothing.” They reply in pleased astonishment, “You wish to be left anonymous?!” To which he sternly replies, “I wish to be left alone.”

I am sorry to say it, but that is how I often feel when answering phone solicitations for a wide range of causes (many of them unworthy and mismanaged), when I am coerced at the checkout counter, when I am accosted by able-bodied young men with cardboard signs at traffic stops, when the first thing I see inside a store is the massive box for donated toys or school supplies for the children of parents who need to take responsibility, or when the postal service leaves a plastic bag for me to fill with canned goods for the food bank. Ironically, our church then has to buy the canned goods from the food bank to distribute to the poor and needy!

Unlike Scrooge, I am not a greedy, stingy person. We give generously to our church, to its missions, and to many special needs brought to our attention. So please, let me love the way I want to love. Let me keep my money to feed the people of my choice; let me care for children by teaching them life skills rather than give unnecessary stuff; let me care for the victims of foreign disasters rather than preserve domestic wetlands, if I choose. And above all– leave the gambling in Vegas!


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