In Part 1 of this blog post I suggested that we need to examine whether consumerism, even for a good cause, fits with a commitment to justice.
In Part 2 I want to unpack two key factors that you can use to evaluate whether your purchase for charity is helpful or harmful.
I've already touched on the first factor: consumerism.
But what if the Charity product is for a really GREAT cause - like those impoverished Mongolian orphans?
Or plows back virtually all the profits into the Mongolian orphanage?
Surely these are good products to buy right? Right?
I want to suggest that the second key factor to consider is Community Return.
By Community Return I mean the economic and social benefits for the community that is being helped. Jobs are being created for the poor? Great! Most of the profits go back to benefit those who need it most? Fantastic! Nike making $100m profit while giving a measly amount to the poor? Not so good.
So, let's take these two factors, Consumerism and Community Return, and place them together using the model below. This will give us a rough guide for deciding about that $50 Charity t-shirt.
If we consider that most products are somewhere between basic necessities and luxuries, and our purchase of them will have varying degrees of benefit to the community, we have a rough guide to whether our purchase for charity is helpful or harmful.
Obviously this is simplistic, but using it as a rule of thumb you can probably pick out the good from the not so good.
The best types of products will be those that have heaps of positive flow back into the poor community (through cash & jobs) AND will be products that we actually need. A great example from the Transformational Blessing quadrant would be my friends in Kolkata, India making these eco-friendly stoves - useful, environmentally friendly and fully supporting the community.
The worst, will be products that actually harm poor communities in some way (eg. undermine local economies) or have hardly any Community Return, while at the same time promoting consumerism.
Now Jesus didn't have to deal with RED Ipods, or TOM'S shoes. But he did encourage us to give sacrificially (Luke 21:4).
So next time you're faced with buying some slick $200 Armani shades (whose parent company gives a MASSIVE 1% of its total revenue to the Global Fund) why not grab a $20 pair and donate $180 to something worthwhile on the ground.
Now that is a sacrifice.