A couple of links I've found encouraging and helpful in light of recent discussions:
An interview with Shane Claiborne on being "Poor and Free," exploring the ideas of voluntary spiritual poverty. This is part 3/3.
"I think that a mark of the Spirit’s movement in us is that we begin to share. It certainly happened in the early Church that there were wealthy people that began to reallocate their resources. And there were tax collectors like Zaccheus who began to redistribute their possessions. And it was actually at that point that Jesus said, “Salvation has come.” It is a mark of salvation that we begin to share stuff. It is a beautiful vocation to be able to share and to give."
"And so with charity, there is a healthy critique of charity when it is not rooted in relationships, when it is only about writing a check. In some ways, it can create a layer of insulation between real relationships, just like you can give a dollar to someone on the street without any love in it, you can give a dollar because you don’t want to talk to them, or because you want to get them off your back or you’re scared or whatever else.It’s not just about whether or not we give money, but how much love we put into it."
From Claiborne's ministry, The Simple Way, this response on giving to the homeless:
Should I give money to homeless folks or beggars?
Jesus said give to everyone who asks. That’s a tough command. Sometimes we wonder what Jesus would do in the Calcutta slums or in these heroine-haunted streets where folks ask for change on every corner. What we can say with confidence is that we are to give something to everyone who asks – dignity, attention, time, a listening ear. Sometimes we may give money, sometimes not. But we can always give love. And there are times when giving money can even be a way to insulate ourselves from friendship or the messiness a real relationship might demand. So you can toss a few coins to a beggar or write a check to charity precisely as a way of insulating ourselves from relationships (and still appease our consciences)… but at the end of the day Christ’s call is to relationship and compassion. When Jesus speaks in Matthew 25 about caring for “the least of these”, the action he speaks of is not about distant acts of charity but personal actions of compassion – visiting the prisoners, caring for the sick, welcoming the strangers, sharing food with the hungry. Better than sharing money is sharing life, a meal, a home. Having said that, most Christians need to get taken advantage of more. And we can usually spare some change. Sometimes folks say this question about giving to beggars and panhandlers with suspicion, speculating that homeless folks will just use their money for drugs or alcohol… which happens sometimes. But we don’t always ask what CEOs are doing with our money when we give it to their companies (and the recent events on Wall Street raise some flags about how responsible they are!). In the end, if we cannot take someone to dinner or give them a ride when they ask for money, we might as well give some money. It’s better to err on the side of grace than on the side of suspicion. And we doubt that Jesus is going to reprimand us for giving too much money to addicts… more likely, we will discover we could have been a bit more generous than we were.
It’s no good arguing with big business and governments, ordering them to cease supporting the arms trade; they won’t listen. Even if they appear to, they will lie and hide and find wily ways around. The slime mould of Mammon has overtaken them.
I think our best hope is in finding our way out of the paths of Mammon and into the ways of Sacred Economy – gift economy, holy poverty, voluntary simplicity. The less money changes hands, the less there is to divert into arms trading. The less we earn, the less tax we pay, the less can be syphoned off to finance war. The more simply we live and the less we own, the less money we need to earn so the less tax we will pay.