According to federal regulations, all non-profit organizations have to make their finance reports public. Often such finance reports are unintelligible to outsiders anyway, but some intrepid groups have sought to publicize their numbers so that (among other reasons) people can give to charities intelligently. The largest such group is Charity Navigator, which lists organized information about more than 5,000 NPOs on its website.
Perusing this database, you find some fascinating things. I’ve seen commercials for Feed The Children all my life. Who hasn’t? “Save a starving child for just ten cents a day.” I didn’t realize that they were based in Oklahoma City, not far at all from where I’m living. I also didn’t realize that Larry Jones, the President of Feed the Children, pulls in close to $250,000 a year.
$250,000 a year? How many dimes is that per day?
What’s more, his wife is the Vice-President, and her salary is another $175,000. Altogether, they bring home $425,000 every year. That’s almost half a million dollars a year.
Now, this really isn’t a blight on Feed The Children as an organization. His salary is 0.04% of their expenses, and only 2.5% of their expenses go to administrative costs in general. An actual 84% goes to, well, feed the children, which isn’t bad at all. But I have to wonder about Larry Jones. I don’t doubt his sincerity or character in the slightest. He isn’t some slick corporate fraud; he founded the company thirty-five years ago, after witnessing the crippling poverty in our own hemisphere in Haiti, and realizing the surplus of produce left over in America each year.
But that’s precisely my dilemma. In the case of sincere Christians who sense such need in the world, how much can we justify keeping back for ourselves? How many dimes per day? Sometimes I feel guilty for the amount I own, and I don’t make one-tenth of what the Jones’ pull in.
I don’t mean to judge Larry Jones. For all I know, he is a reverse-tither, and gives away ninety percent of his income (though it’s hard to imagine more important charities to give to than those feeding starving children). But I want to open the question.
How much pay should Christians expect from their ministry?
How much can we earn and still read the Gospel of Luke without having to dismiss certain passages?
How close are we to fitting a camel through the eye of a needle?
Would you feel comfortable being paid half a million dollars to feed starving children?