The kingdom of heaven is like a person who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.
One of the new phenomena in our society is the rise of non-profits that collect millions of dollars yet give very little back to fulfill their intended mission. Essentially these organizations identify a popular social cause and then raise money. But at the same time provide little help for the worthy cause.
For example, the Children’s Wish Foundation solicits funds to help seriously ill children receive a gift to answer a wish, not to be confused with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Perhaps the desire is a trip to Disney World, a visit to a national park, or to watch their favorite sports team play. The charity plays on the outstanding reputation of the Make-A-Wish foundation to collect money. Yet distributes very little to the children. Instead, most of the money goes to the founder and hired consultants. The foundation preys on the knowledge that Americans are very willing givers.
Last year, Americans donated close to half a trillion dollars to what is thought to be worthy causes. Even today, Congress is debating handing out another trillion to what is called Human Infrastructure. Next year a substantial amount of money could be handed out to Not For Profit organizations with little oversight to ensure the money is appropriately used.
Unfortunately, hucksters know this as well. And over the last decade or so, many organizations have figured out how to take advantage of our generosity. It seems that hustling money from Americans is a growth industry. Unfortunately, these hustlers are the weeds amongst the many who actually try to do good.
In my daily activities, I see both hustlers and well-intentioned leaders of Non-profits. Examples of good organizations, like A Season for Giving, survive through volunteers doing the work. Or Ida’s closet, which an eighty-year-old woman runs, handed out over thirty tons of clothing last year. One of my favorites is Street Squash, an organization that helps inner-city youth attend college. As a result, 85% of their attendees graduate from a four-year college. Well above the national average.
But I also see organizations like the national BLM, which raised tens of millions of dollars and provided little funds to their local chapters. The founder recently quit after making millions and getting a movie contract. While the well-intended local chapters of BLM bitterly complained they needed money to help their communities. At the same time, violent deaths for this group rose in some states by thirty percent.
I, too often, see Non-Profits who prey on the sympathies of Americans and set up their organizations for the sole purpose of collecting a paycheck and send little of the money back into their communities. This is the new American Hustle.
What would Jesus say about all this? In the famous Parable of the Weeds, Jesus gives us his opinion. He said, First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn—both an ominous warning to those who bilk and a hopeful message to those who do good. Even in Jesus’ time, there were bilker’s and harvesters.
Herein lies the problem. How do we sort out the weeds from a productive harvest? Do we stop giving and helping those who valiantly try to make a difference, so we don’t get caught up with the weeds? It seems Jesus is telling us to continue to give to those who do good and leave the rest to Him. But knowing who the weeds are is also essential.
I have found actually visiting the various Non-Profit helps a lot. Look at what they do and talk with those who do the actual work. For instance, with Ida’s Closet, I met Ida. An older woman with a no-nonsense communication style. Frankly, she would be embarrassed if she knew I was writing about her. In the back room of a small church, she sorts through the clothes that arrive in large plastic bags. Unneeded garments that were donated by someone she likely doesn’t know but heard about her work.
She sorts the garments by type, size, and gender. Then places them on a rolling rack for volunteers to hand out during their street missions in Atlantic city. She carefully sorts that which is in good shape from those not so good. She is defiant about not having poor-quality products hit the street. She is the harvester Jesus is talking about. She is street smart and knows her mission.
There are many great Non-Profits out there, run by well-intentioned people. Unfortunately, there are also the weeds of life. We can sort them out by digging a little deeper, and if you can’t, visit them. A quick google search helps. Look for statements about how much of their funds go directly to aid. Generally, above 90% is an excellent measuring criteria. Look at what they accomplish and does it make sense when compared to what they receive.
The current American Hustle isn’t new. It was there two thousand years ago as well. So let’s all help the good harvesters and leave the weeds to Jesus.