Letter Re: Dispensing Charity in the Midst of a Societal Collapse

Hello Mr. Rawles,
Perhaps you and the readers could help me sort through an issue I’ve been wrestling with for some time. From what I’ve read in the archives it appears that some of your readers are struggling with it also.
For almost two decades I have been preparing for the SHTF scenario I believe is inevitable, given our country’s course. I have read about the need for Christian charity during the difficult time that will come and as a Christian I agree. Many suggest that you should store extra food and necessities and dispense them during difficult times. Good idea, but I haven’t found much agreement on precisely how to accomplish this – the mechanics of doing so, if you will. This may be because the issue seems to raise questions that have no simple answers. For example:

Say you set aside 10% of your supplies as “give away” stock. How do you deal with the former recipients of your charity when the crisis persists and that 10% has been given away? You know it was all you planned to give away, but will they know (or care)? How will you control the remainder of the supplies they are now aware of?

I live around many people I call “fivers.” (These are the people with $500,000 homes…who drive a $50,000 pickup truck…that pulls their $5,000 ATVs…on weekends they’re spending $500 to attend a pro football game…but they can’t seem to afford $50 for a water purifier…or $5 for emergency candles.) Do I dispense charity to these fools? Should I? While they’ve been living the good life, I’ve been living frugally so I can afford to purchase my preparedness items. Something about a Grasshopper and an Ant comes to mind about now…

If the crisis is truly short-lived (it ends before your shared supplies run out), what have the recipients learned? That someone else will be there to bail them out the next time this happens? That if there’s a problem they can always come to my place for supplies? Isn’t that reinforcing the entitlement mentality that’s already far too prevalent in this country?
You touched on the issue of dispensing charity in “Patriots” when the characters encountered passersby who showed up, were helped, and conveniently exited the scene, never to return. That won’t be the case when those people live down the street.

In the “City Survival” chapter in Ragnar Benson’s Living Off The Land In The City And The Country he contends (and I concur) that most people simply do not have the luxury of leaving an urban or semi-urban environment and moving to a rural retreat. For the city survivor, he suggests, “It is far better to be discreet. Don’t broadcast the fact that you are caching for survival. Keep your stores and caching places to yourself. Then, after the collapse if someone comes around, it will be a random scavenger that can be more easily dissuaded.” Another author simply stated, “In a survival situation you can’t afford charity” and went on to say that unwise (read “unprepared”) people who have nothing of value to offer you should be terminated (read: “killed”). Yikes!!!
I believe the answer lies somewhere between “doing nothing” and “doing them in,” so to speak. This 10 Cent Challenge supporter would appreciate input from you all on this issue.
Thanks, and God bless. – John in Colorado.

JWR Replies: I agree that urbanites that choose to stay put will not have much opportunity to be very charitable WTSHTF. There would be precious few practicable ways–other than perhaps anonymously leaving things on the doorsteps of widows–to be charitable without the risk of getting cleaned out by opportunistic riff-raff. But for those of us that live in the country and even for those in the suburbs, there will be plenty of opportunities to share.

But first let’s address this issue at the most basic level: As a Christian, I believe that charity is not optional. It is Biblically mandated. I feel this very strongly, for several reasons. First: it is there in The Book, over and over again. There is no denying it. God said it. I believe it. That settles it. Secondly, I came to recognize God’s gift of salvation bestowed upon me, through election, and I learned that His gift was unmerited. I didn’t deserve salvation any more than some of my neighbors deserve my charity when things get Schumeresque. But God freely gave that gift to me, so I’m going to do my utmost to freely bestow charity on everyone that I can. Lastly, everything that I’ve earned and saved, I consider providential gifts from God. So I intend to share some of it with those that are less fortunate and even those that currently lack the foresight to stock up for potential bad times. It’s not my stuff. It’s God’s stuff. I’m just the steward of a part of it.

Charity with no strings attached is a powerful witness for God’s love and for the gospel of Christ. You don’t need to be an eloquent speaker. Just tell them: “Its the Christian thing to do.” That speaks volumes. And, BTW, it won’t hurt to hand out a few gospel tracts and Bibles along with the grub.

I strongly encourage charitable giving both the present day and post-TEOTWAWKI. It is important to keep far more storage food on hand than you expect to consume. If all that you have is the bare minimum to supply your own family or retreat group, you won’t be in any position to dispense charity.

In particular, I recommend that you stock up on extra wheat, rice, beans, and sprouting seeds. If purchased in food grade 5 gallon buckets they are currently still relatively inexpensive. Just an extra two or three hundred pounds of grains and legumes could save dozens of lives. God’s providence is a gift. Share it. I’m sure that there will be a lot of such people wandering about when the balloon goes up. Consider yourself an ambassador for Christ, and act accordingly. Do it for God’s glory rather than your own.

If the situation warrants it, give at arm’s length. I describe one way to do this in my novel “Patriots”. It may sound almost absurd, but you may need to dispense charity by passing it over concertina wire or even while holding the beneficiaries at gunpoint at a safe distance. If times are bad enough, they’ll understand your caution.

How much of your preparedness stockpile should you set aside for charity? Generally I’d recommend at least a tenth. That is in line with the tradition of tithing, which has its roots in the Old Testament law of Tzedaka.The Bible says that you provide for your immediate family first, then your extended family, and then your local community, and so on.

What if it is a localized natural disaster and you know that the situation is likely to get back to normal with in a few months? Then you can probably afford to be more charitable than just giving a tenth. In essence, you can look at your three year food supply as a one year supply for three families, or as a six month supply for six families.