In a reflection I read the other day on Jesus’ comment to his disciples that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God, Peter Feldmeier, offered a challenge inspired by Peter Singer:
You just bought yourself a new pair os suede boots for $200 and you are walking by a pond where a toddler is drowning. You would not hesitate to dash into the water to save the child, even though this would ruin your boots. A child is more important than boots! Now consider the moment just before buying the boots, knowing that those $200 could feed a starving child. Do you buy the boots or do you give the money to a charity that feeds starving children?
The hypothetical raises a good question for our consideration. Why do we think differently about saving the drowning child than feeding starving children?
To be sure, the drowning child is right there in front of our face and the starving children are not. But we know they exist. We know that children die every day because they lack sufficient food or access to clean water or something as simple as a mosquito net.
There must be reasons we react differently to the two scenarios in the hypothetical. And some of those reasons may or may not be legitimate. But we won’t know that unless we ask ourselves the question. And I suspect we often fail to do even that.