The story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-26) famously tells of Cain asking God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” trying hide the fact he has already killed his sibling.
If that question is asked of Americans in the context of caring for poor children in other parts of the world, the answer according to at least on survey is a resounding, “Yes.”
Data released this week by Richmond, Va.-based ChildFund International – formerly known as Christian Children’s Fund – two-thirds of Americans believe that the United States should make a conscious effort to help lift children around the world out of poverty.
One of the most interesting findings of the survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs was what Americans’ perceptions of what poverty means in different parts of the world. When asked what they though the household income was of poor families internationally, the median response was $5,000. ChildFund indicated that the figure is on the high end of the scale. Annual per capita income in underdeveloped nations is around $585, or about $1.60 per day.
“It is heartening, especially in light of a challenging economy, to see that so many Americans recognize the plight of millions of children around the world whose needs are so great,” said Anne Lynam Goddard, president and CEO of ChildFund International. “Unfortunately, due to the global economic downturn, conditions among developing nations around the world are becoming increasingly dire. By the end of 2010, it is estimated that an additional 89 million people – likely half of them children – will fall below the poverty line.”
Goddard went on to point out that even a small contribution can make a large difference.
While that may be true, it also points to a larger argument that giving makes us good ambassadors both of our nation and our faith. This should be common sense. As individual Americans we profoundly alter how the United States is perceived by making what seem to us token gestures of aid to places in desperate need of assistance. As Christians, Jesus made clear through his life and ministry that caring for the poor and those on the lowest rungs of the social order was not an option – it is a mandate.
If you spend enough time in troubling corners of the Internet or cable television it becomes unfortunately easy to find commentary that we have no business donating to Haiti, Chile or anywhere else because of the economic and social problems we face in the U.S. Looking at it from a Christian perspective, however, does God ask us to put our needs above others who have less, even if that is the path of least resistance and particularly when they’re not the same nationality? That isn’t what he told Cain and shouldn’t be what we’re telling ourselves.