"The more I've gotten to know rich folks, the more I am convinced that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor, but that rich Christians do not know the poor. Mother Teresa said 'Today it is very fashionable to talk about the poor. Unfortunately it is not as fashionable to talk to the poor.' Layers of insulation separate the rich and the poor from truly encountering one another. There are the obvious ones like picket fences and SUVs, and there are the more subtle ones like charity. Tithes, tax-exemption donations, and short-term mission trips, while they accomplish some good, can also function as outlets that allow us to appease our consciences and still retain a safe distance from the poor.
It is much more comfortable to de-personalize the poor so that we do not feel responsible for the catastrophic human failure that someone is on the street while people have spare bedrooms in their homes. We can volunteer in a social program or distribute excess food and clothing through organizations, but rarely do we actually open up our homes, our beds, our dinner tables. Jesus is not seeking distant acts of charity. He is seeking concrete actions of love "you fed me... you visited me, ... you welcomed me in... you clothed me..." (Matthew 25).
When the church becomes a place of brokerage rather than an organic community, she ceases to be alive. Brokerage turns the church into an organization rather than a new family of rebirth. She ceases to be something we are, the living Bride of Christ. The church becomes a distribution center, a place where the poor come to get stuff and the rich come to dump stuff. Both go away satisfied (the rich feel good, the poor get fed), but no one leaves transformed - no new community is formed.
No doubt, generosity is a biblical value. Generosity is not just a virtue of those with "gifts of mercy". It is at the very heart of our rebirth. Popular culture has taught us to believe that charity is a gift. For Christians it is only what is expected. We have no right not to be charitable. The early Christians taught that charity was merely returning what we have stolen. St Vincent DePaul said that when he give bread to the beggars he gets on his knees and asks forgiveness from them."
School(s) for Conversation: 12 Marks of a New Monasticism