Can We Drink Starbucks and Not Donate to Japan …

or to Haiti or to the local agencies near us like in Paterson, Harlem, or even Camden? I’ll be the first to admit that questions like this are difficult and perhaps even unfair. I think the goodness is more in the process of answering this question than in the question itself and it’s something that I ask our youth group students reguarly. What should we be doing in times of crisis, dirty water and disease epidemics, global poverty and so forth?

We got serious about these topics a few years ago when we did a series that focused on poverty, suffering, entitlement and how we are called to serve the world. We talked about how 2.3 billion people live on $2 a day and asked is it godly for us to buy a drink that costs more than that? Should we boycott Starbucks? What about our many friends that work there (like our PT Jr. High Youth Pastor, a couple youth leaders and others whom we love and value)? Do we tell them to get new jobs that might not provide health insurance? Should we provide it? I remember someone saying, “I’m getting a headache” and someone saying, “Well, coffee helps with that but don’t do it” – lol.

Our youth group has a little coffee bar in the back of the youth room. We used to charge for the coffee, tea and hot chocolate but then we thought better that it should be a “Freely give, freely receive” tip jar. Some are extremely generous with it and some are still working on it. We know things like this are small tokens in comparison to the needs of the world but I am hoping that these little things help us in seeing how things like money control us and will continue to until our generosity liberates us from that control.

This conversation goes in so many directions. Tithing, missions, mission trips, volunteering, vocational ministry, non-vocational, bi-vocational, suburbia, urban ministry.
Other practicalities like what about our schooling? Can we go to the movies, can we go on vacation, what about things like prom, birthday parties and weddings? Jesus went to weddings right?

We said things like, you can’t watch action movies and romantic comedies and not watch documentaries. There’s a time for vacations and mission trips, going and sending, celebrating and serving. We talked about how even Jesus didn’t heal everyone during His earthly ministry and nor does He now. We talked about being faithful, Jesus-like, compassionate, and prayed that we would learn what it mean to be humble and self-sacrificial.

I believe there is a time to wash dirty feet and a time to feast. It’s very biblical. But the moment we think we have done enough is the moment our entitlement and self-righteousness overwhelms our generosity. So back to the original question*, the answer is yes to both. May we seek the Lord’s wisdom and may we desire to do more for others than we do for ourselves.

*Btw, we can’t just donate money to Japan and expect that to be enough (even if it’s a generous amount). They lost more than homes and buildings. Similar to Haiti, New Orleans and countless other tragedies, supporting the rebuilding of Japan will require much and we should spend time reading, researching conversing and doing. May the Lord give us strength.


  1. Great points, when it comes to ministry and missions I think our teens want a quick fix for a long journey. You can’t blame them when corporations make it seem as simple as a monetary contribution, but all that does is hide the work. Nothing against corporations that ask for monetary donations but what I think we need to do as youth workers is show the commitment, problem solving and compassion needed to take on the world.
    But I also like how you point out a time for feasting and a time for fasting…it’s so easy to get caught in the extremes.

  2. Kim Durba says:

    Dear Tim, Thanks so much for this blog. It was great i really enjoy reading your blogs it makes me get to thinking about the serious things in life instead of allowing life`s problems to slow me down and at times be all consuming.

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