Its interesting how charities have evolved over the centuries. History shows communities of people helping each other. Stories like the good Samaritan from the Bible, where a good man helped a victim of a violent robbery, checking him into an inn and covering all expenses without hope of anything in return. In the book of Luke Jesus described this action as “Having mercy on him (the victim of the robbery).”

The word Charity, in old English stands for “benevolence of the poor,” or “Christian love of one’s fellow’s.” So simply, as Jesus puts it charity is mercy. Having mercy on your neighbours who are not doing too well economically, having mercy on someone less fortunate than yourself. This same historical figure advocated for his followers to do these deeds in private (like he said about praying) and not to use it to advertise to their peers how they have a moral high ground.

Let’s fast forward to the modern day. What does charity mean today?

Google defines it as “an organisation set up to help and raise money for those in need.”

Charity has become a billion-dollar industry, with wealthy CEO’s at the top, highly paid employees and effective marketing strategies. If you look at call centres, door to door people or those annoying guys in that booth outside the shopping centre you can automatically relate these organisations to the big Wall Street companies selling stocks on commission. However, these are just the beginning.

One of the latest online trends is the refugee ration challenge, where participants are challenged to eat nothing but the same rations given to refugees each day on Manus island. To do this you sign up to their website and create your own page for sponsorship and ask your friends and family to support you through the utter pain of eating nothing but “a small amount of rice, flour, lentils, chick peas, beans, fish and oil” each day. At least they are generous enough to let you choose an alternative for vegetarians/vegans…

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The website claims that they have raised millions of dollars to help tens of thousands of refugees in camps around the world. They claim to be tackling the root cause of these problems and are setting up long term solutions. I’m curious as to what that is as refugees are still pouring in from around the world in huge numbers as governments continue to bomb countries like Syria.

Helping a couple thousand refugees is great but its treating the symptom not the cause. There are still even more out there that are in need of a bit more than some more rations and awareness.

Thousands of Australians get on board with these movements to show their friends on social media how virtuous they are. How they are such good Samaritans for jumping on a popular online trend that doesn’t even take that much time or effort but gains them so many “likes, shares or reactions.” Remember the ALS Ice bucket challenge from years ago? Thousands of people including extremely well known celebrities got on board to virtue signal to the general public and show what selfless human beings they are to take five to ten minutes to dump some cold water on themselves and then drying themselves with a towel afterwards. What heroes.

What were the results from this? ALS deaths haven’t changed, in fact they’ve gone up since the challenge was started. Well at least we can all feel good for participating in the challenge, right?

Other challenges like the no makeup challenge for cancer research, the one for one to help children in poor countries have access to shoes and of course Movember, for men’s health have been used by attention hungry social media users to market themselves and show that they are the perfect do gooders that the media talks about and to allow corporate CEO’s to get even richer.

Jesus urged his followers to live lives of charity. Millennials use charity to help further their social status while the CEO’s of these “organisations” look down and laugh at them. Is that mercy? Is that loving your neighbour?

Let us known in the comments what you think of these challenges, or if I deserve a good roasting for writing this article.

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