There are basic levels to every question and then those issues quickly become more and more complex. We found that at the church in Alotau we were dealing with the complex issues before first understanding the basic fundamentals of giving. Here are some of our reflections on the fundamental principles of the church as a helping community.
By way of introduction, let me give some background information to the financial scene in Alotau. Many people are poor in terms of monetary ownership. Because savings is not a value in that culture people often find themselves financially struggling. As a result, we get a lot of benevolence requests. Yet, our church is composed of the same group of poor, so our church contributions are not massive. As a result of these two factors, the church is forced to say no to some requests, and those working on the ‘giving team’ (benevolence) often feel overwhelmed at the task before them. The comments in this post share my attempt to educate the church about giving and helping people. I have left much of the material in its more simplistic English and style.
Helping People / Benevolence Ministry
In the church some of the hardest decisions involve the question, who should we help? In a church setting those who answer this question are often part of a benevolence, or giving team.
Usually a set of guidelines help to make these decisions easier, but never easy. These guidelines come from direct biblical teachings, biblical principals, and wisdom.
Here is an example of some guidelines:
Timothy encouraged the churches that he worked with to help the widows. Interestingly, Timothy also presented some rules to help the church know who to help. Those guidelines can be found in 1 Tim. 5:9-16.
- She must be a widow.
- She must be over 60 years old.
- She was faithful to her husband.
- She does good deeds.
- She does not have family to care for her physical needs.
Therefore, we see it is alright for churches to make guidelines about who they will help and in what ways.
Who should the church help?
- The Bible does talk about helping in a regular way those who have no way of working or providing for themselves. We see in Acts 6:1-7 the church appointed a group of people to help the widows of the church. Often in the Bible the kinds of people that have no way of working or providing for themselves are the widows and orphans (James 1:27). I believe that today we have new categories of people like single mothers to whom the church should give special attention. The church can help if the family cannot, but it should be the family’s responsibility first (1 Tim. 5:16).
- The Bible talks about helping those who are poor or suffering because of an emergency event. For example, Acts 11:28-30 there was a famine in Judea and other church members collected funds to help those in the famine.
- Needy people from another place. Heb. 13:2
- James 2:15-17 and Gal. 6:10 talk about the importance of caring for those inside the church. We don’t ignore those outside of the church, but we give first needs to those in the family of God. We can provide assistance to our own church members.
- The church is the body of Christ (Eph. 1:23). The church must do with its funds what Christ would have done if he had those funds. Luke 4:18-19 talks about Jesus’ ministry to the poor, prisoners, blind, and those being ruled over.
Things to Remember:
- The Bible does not support helping those who have a way to work but choose not to because they are lazy. 1 Thess. 4:11-12 – we should work for our food. 2 Thess. 3:10-12. It is not honorable to depend on the church to give us something we or our family can give us.
- The Bible does not support helping those who have a way to provide for their family / themselves, but misused the money on other unimportant things. 1 Tim. 5:8.
- Sometimes we must realize money is not a person’s problem. Prov. 17:16 says money is not valuable in the hands of a fool. If the church gives money to a foolish person we know it will be misused.
- The church should think carefully about (1) lending money, (2) doing what another organization does, and (3) working a business.
- We should not lend money because Prov. 22:7. We do not want people’s spiritual motives confused with physical motives. Banks exist to help people with loans. If the cause is good give money, but loaning money destroys relationships.
- Since we only have limited funds, if there is an organization in town that helps someone with something, we can refer the person to that organization.
- The church should not loan money for business projects. The money entrusted to the church is for good works, not for business projects.
Photo by Flowerey L*u*z*a
What else do you think the church needs to remember in its helping ministry?