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Perspective: When it comes to the Giving Machines, let’s be the born-again version of Scrooge

The #LightTheWorld campaign nudges us to give freely to those in need. The transformed Scrooge would approve

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Giving Machines provide necessary care to millions of people in need, and through the #LightTheWorldWithLove initiative.

Giving Machines provide necessary care to millions of people in need, and through the #LightTheWorldWithLove initiative.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

In Charles Dickens’ holiday masterpiece, “A Christmas Carol,” the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge treads through the bleak winter sneering at every opportunity for Christmas charity and joy.

But throughout the novella, Scrooge transforms from stingy and selfish to the incarnation of the Christmas spirit. Central to Scrooge’s metamorphosis is how he no longer discriminates which charitable causes matter and which did not.

He gives freely and openly.

For the last five years as part of the #LightTheWorld campaign, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has set up Giving Machines in various locations. They resemble vending machines, but have a different mechanism than offering the purchaser a snack or beverage.

Instead, the purchaser becomes a giver, selecting and donating to a charitable cause through the machine.

Givers select a “product” like irrigation supplies or housing, and then the donation goes to that specific cause. The Church partners with nearly 125 organzations including American Red Cross, UNICEF and Water for People, among others.

But even this straightforward charitable endeavor doesn’t evade criticism online.

One befuddling critique starts with citing Matt. 6:1, “take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them.” It’s an important verse in a supernal sermon. But the verse refers explicitly to intentions— that is, giving alms shouldn’t be done for the purpose of being seen by others.

Jesus does not say to never do good publicly.

On the contrary, Christ went about doing good and said to his disciples, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Jesus even applauded public giving when it was done genuinely with pure intent.

When a poor widow cast her two mites into the treasury, for example, he praised her more than rich men who gave more because she gave all that she had. Her public contribution has become a treasured symbol of Christian discipleship.

The stated intention of the #LightTheWorld campaign is “By following Jesus, the true Light of the World, you can bring a little light to the lives of friends, family members, coworkers, and even strangers!”

The machines nudge us to do good.

Many have had the experience of hearing the iconic jingling silver bells of a Salvation Army volunteer eliciting donations outside shopping centers. These machines perform the similar function during the holiday season.

And now that they are also online they give everyone an opportunity to give whether in private or public. Last year, the Giving Machines yielded nearly $6 million in donations, which led to donating more than 1.7 million meals and essential clothing for nearly 20,000 children. Since 2017, the machines have raised $15 million.

We need to see more of this, not less of it.

Charity like this is not simply a good thing to do, but a deeply necessary and urgent cause for the many people served.

Sharon Eubank, director of humanitarian initiatives for The Church, recently wrote for Deseret Magazine, “I deeply believe charitable giving and receiving, offered with dignity and sincere compassion, are the foundation of both civilized society and personal happiness.” And at the annual Christmas devotional this year, Elder José A. Teixeira of the Presidency of the Seventy of the Church reflected on what Jesus Christ gave us and notably included, “the blessing to be able to give even when we don’t possess much” comes because of Jesus Christ.

Call it the widow’s mite or whatever you like, the act of giving what we can, whether that be time or money or resources is a way of showing the love of God. I sincerely invite critics to look at all opportunities to give in a new way. The holiday season provides an increasingly rare moment of unity. Atmospherically, something about the lights and all the talk of “the meaning of the season” softens hearts and there seems to be a greater propensity for unity.

We should apply that here.

The #LightTheWorld campaign offers a chance to link arms together to make a difference in the lives of those who need it.

During the Christmas season, it’s common to say “Don’t be a Scrooge” in reference to people who “bah humbag” the holly and jolly around them.

But that only accounts for who Scrooge used to be, and not for who he became. At the end of the novella, Scrooge’s full transformation made him a light in the world and a friend to all. So, perhaps some could benefit from being a bit more like the transformed Scrooge this year — the one who by the end is giving freely and openly to those in need.