Ice Buckets, Charity and Choices

I got challenged to pour a bucket of ice water on my head today, to help raise awareness (and funds, I guess) for ALS research. I’ve never really known anyone who had ALS, other than public figures, but I am aware of the disease – any lifelong Yankee fan knows about Lou Gehrig and the disease named after him. It is a terrible disease.

I get appeals all the time from the heart fund, the cancer society, Jerry Lewis, Wounded Warriors, Susan G. Komen, the March of Dimes, and the Children’s Miracle Network. They are all, I’m sure, worthy charities. There are hundreds of charities making hundreds of appeals. They do, to one level or another, do good work.

I don’t generally donate to any of them. It’s not (I hope) that I am hard-hearted or unfeeling, but I have some reasons why I do what I do and give what I give. Let me (very briefly) share my thought processes.

1) I have a very limited amount of money I can give. I’m not like some of you Southern SBC Pastors who all make 200,000 to 300,000 bucks a year (at least, that’s what I assume). I can’t give to everything.

2) I have chosen to give as generously as I can to my local church, to Lottie, Annie and other SBC offerings. If I was going to give to other charities, I’d likely have to cut back on giving to the church and I’m not going to do that.

3) As someone who has been redeemed by Christ, my primary purpose is to bring others to Christ, to fulfill the Great Commission. If I am going to be involved in a charity, or give to an organization, it MUST have a Great Commission component. We supported one of the “support a child” ministries in Africa for a time, but it was one that was actively and aggressively evangelistic.

4) There are a lot of people out there who have no interest or involvement in the church, who are secular, unchurched, and unconcerned about the Great Commission. I figure they can give their charity dollars to whatever floats their boat. I’m going to focus my giving on ministries that make a spiritual difference in the world.

Again, this is not to disrespect any of the funds I mentioned above or charities you might be involved in. I realize I might change my perspective if someone I love got ALS, died of cancer, or whatever.  Follow your own convictions – these are mine. But for me, what money I have to give is going to go into a ministry that meets needs WHILE it proclaims the saving message of Christ.

And, preferably, one that does not ask me to dump a bucket of ice water on my head.

What say you?


  1. Dean Stewart says

    Dave, I make between 200 and 300,000 dollars a year. I suspect every pastor in the SBC does.

    The rationale for your giving practices is excellent.

  2. Daviss Woodbury says

    I think it is a travesty and an injustice that you make less than $200 a year. I demand an inquiry.

  3. Andy Williams says

    Well everybody knows “You can’t out-give God.” So without a doubt if you gave to every charity and person that asked you, God would miraculously increase your salary to 300,000/year. It’s in the bible somewhere…


    • Tarheel says

      Yep Andy…it sure is! Its in the same chapter with “cleanliness is next to godliness.” and “God helps those who help themselves”!

  4. says

    I wish more Christians would have the discernment that you show here David. So many are jumping on the ALS “ice bucket” challenge ignoring what the ALSA (the group behind it) support. That is, embryonic stem cell research. Not to get too much into situational ethics, but I personally don’t believe that trying to cure ALS is a good enough reason to harvest young lives for embryonic stem cells. Of course, I bet many Christians did not know ALSA utilized embryonic stem cells in their research. The “high” of being apart of a notable cause often trumps discernment.

        • Bennett Willis says

          But what are they doing? I looked through the link and ask that you pick the paragraphs where they indicate that they use the embryonic stem cells. No, wait. I reread your comment (with the link) and you say that they say that this would be a possibly more productive path.

          What do they do and how do you know this is what they do?

          You have made it difficult for any who read this blog to, in any way, contribute to ALS research. It seems to me that you should produce firm documentation. I could not find it in the linked site, but maybe I missed it. Help me out.

        • Bennett Willis says

          Here are some quotes from the site that you linked to:
          “The ALS Association primarily funds adult stem cell research. Currently, The Association is funding one study using embryonic stem cells (ESC), and the stem cell line was established many years ago under ethical guidelines set by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS); this research is funded by one specific donor, who is committed to this area of research. In fact, donors may stipulate that their funds not be invested in this study or any stem cell project. Under very strict guidelines, The Association may fund embryonic stem cell research in the future.”

          “To be fair, according to Munk, it seems ALSA supports the philosophy of embryonic stem cell research, but that known funding is exclusively done through the direction of one donor, and that potential donors have the opportunity to withhold funds that would be used for such purposes. By its own admission, however, it appears that ALSA reserves the right to further embryonic stem cell research at its own discretion.”

          Given the restrictions that are imposed by the researchers, I would be willing to contribute. I don’t see that this fits the moral restrictions that I was expecting to find based on the original comment.

  5. Andrew Green says

    Dave I am in agreement completely with you except for one exception. I do sometimes give to hospitals like St Jude who do a lot of medical work that only they can do. They also give free care to these kids and families. But otherwise I seek to give as much as I can to my local church and to the established missions offerings

    One thing we do with our family at Christmas time is we give more to Lottie Moon than we give out in all our Christmas gifts combine.

  6. D.L. Payton says

    There is no way I am going to dump a bucket of ice water on my head. Ain’t gonna happen!! I agree completely with Dave especially as it relates to the church and/or the GC. Because of the abundance of charities, all needed, I give to those when it is in memory or in honor of someone for some particle reason i.e. to a cancer fund in memory of someone who died of cancer.

  7. Bob Browning says

    I am very disappointed. I was really looking forward to seeing a video of Dave and an ice bucket at the end of this post.

    I think we should adopt the ice bucket for Annie and Lottie… wonder what that would do for our mission offerings?

  8. says

    I’d been thinking that we needed to challenge this for the CP. Lottie or Annie work too. Some start challenging all the big shots in SBC. especially those making that 200k Dave mentioned.

    Who wouldn’t want to see Paige Patterson dump water on his head. I’m sure we could find people to dump it on him!

  9. says

    I’d been thinking that we needed to challenge this for the CP. Lottie or Annie work too. Some start challenging all the big shots in SBC. especially those making that 200k Dave mentioned.

    Who wouldn’t want to see Paige Patterson dump water on his head. I’m sure we could find people to dump it on him!

  10. says

    I’m with you, Dave. I’ve been happy nobody challenged me in this thing, as I’d have to tell them there’s NO WAY I’m dumping a bucket of ice water over the 76-year-old arthritic frame, and nobody but NOBODY extorts money out of me….

    I get calls all the time from charities and I tell them I respond to NO phone solicitations and we give whatever we have to give through charities WE select.


    p.s. It’s great fun being a curmudgeon.

    • Dave Miller says

      I do the same thing. I tell people I do no business over the phone. If they want to send me a piece of mail I will take a look at it. But I give NOTHING in response to phone solicitations. It bothers me that they will almost never send mail, or even email. They want money now.

      • says

        Nowadays, mail probably costs too much, and sending mass unsolicited email solicitations will get you on spam blocking lists so fast it will make your head spin. That pretty much leaves the phone, where as a charity they get an exemption from dealing with the Do Not Call registry.

  11. William Thornton says

    Exactly my approach to charitable giving (not the ice bucket but focusing on principled Christian giving that reflects my priorities).

    It’s easy to say kindly bur firmly to Komen, ALS, etc, “Sorry, but I think I’ll pass on that” but it’s somewhat more difficult in the church to tell members that we will not add New Tribes, or MAF, or Voice of the Martyrs, or any of the ubiquitous independent freelance works on Haiti or Honduras or some other place nearby. I was successful in my church in concentrating our budgetary giving on the usual IMB/NAMB etc SBC and avoiding every freelancer who wanted to have an opportunity to take a funding shot at our congregation and dissipate our mission giving.

    I’m with Dave…follow your own convictions.

    • Dave Miller says

      When I was a kid, it was viewed as almost an act of heresy for a Baptist church to give ANY missions money except through the CP. Now, I am guessing almost all churches split their money between local projects and ministries, SBC Missions causes, and other missions causes (New Tribes, church partnerships, etc).

  12. dustin germain says

    I’m the same way. Unless there is a gospely angle or quotient to it, I won’t give money. I think that’s the best use of my resources.

  13. Joel says

    Guess I’m an old fogey, but I refuse to be guilted into these rehashed versions of the chain-letter gag going around when I was a child. Ironically, it’s the same folks who fall for them now, just 30 years later…

    • Dave Miller says

      That’s how I FEEL about this. However, the fact is that this has been a tremendously remarkable fundraiser.

  14. says

    I deeply offended a few folks this winter when I wouldn’t do the “cold water jump” challenge.

    Told them to tell me where they wanted me to give money and I’d consider it, but I wasn’t up for pneumonia. I’ve dealt with peer pressure before, and we will deal with it again. Sanctioning it or trying to make it “holy” by giving a cause is just nonsense. Other people do not have the right to demand you engage in unnecessary behavior just to please their social media fixation.

    When it comes to charity, I’m a fan of left hand and right hand not knowing what’s going on with each other–but I know that left hand’s been following right hand on Twitter. So I can’t tweet what I give.

  15. Chris Fischer says

    Unrelated question for Dave, what happened to the post by Alan Cross from Monday with excellent thoughts on Ferguson?