Who Should the Church Help?

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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?

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. Needy people from another place. Heb. 13:2
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. The church should think carefully about (1) lending money, (2) doing what another organization does, and (3) working a business.
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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?

Comments

  1. says

    Great article. What can the church do? Empower its congregation. I believe that the members of the church want to give more to their church, they want to volunteer more, they want to do more, encourage,empower and enable them to do so. We focused our efforts on enabling church goers to give more to their church.
    We started http://www.divinecoupons.com as a vessel for church members to give more than they’ve been able to give. We like to think that we have coupons for christ on our site. We offer over $400 a month in free coupons on our site for groceries and houhold items. The site is free and no registration is needed, just select all and print from your home. We then encourage the users at our site to give 10,20,30, or 100 percent of what they save to their church, hence empowering them to make a difference. It works, STEWARDSHIP is alive and well. Give ou program a look, divinecoupons.com read the mision and process page, and please tell us what you think.
    God bless,
    fred
    divinecoupons@gmail.com

  2. frank Pontillo says

    From ESV Study Bible, article on Stewardship: Stewardship and the Poor “The Bible clearly and repeatedly emphasizes the need for Christians to care for the poor as one of the fundamental requirements of the gospel message. Jesus himself was born to poor parents (cf. Luke 2:24 and note) and had few possessions during his public ministry (Matt 8:20). Jesus says that as his followers do, or do not do, “the least of these” (i.e. those who are hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked), so they either do it, or do not do it, to him (Matt. 25:35-45; cf. the teaching in Proverbs that connects one’s attitude to the poor with his or her relationship to God: Prov. 14:31, 19:17, 21:13). Paul and the early church took Jesus’ teaching seriously and were “eager” “to remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10). In fact, Paul achored his appeal to care for the poor in Jerusalem in the cross, that is, in Jesus’ own atoning self-sacrifice: “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor” (2 Cor. 8:9). The generosity of the church both within and outside the family of faith eventually led the anti-Christian Roman emperor, Julian the Apostate (4th century A.D.), to complain, “Nothing has contributed to the progress of the superstition of the Christians as their charity to strangers…The impious Galileans provide not only for their own poor, but for ours as well” (Julian, Epistles 84). Such care for the poor often takes the form of meeting immediate needs for food, clothing, and other essentials (cf. Luke 10:25-36; James 2:15-17; 1 John 3:17-18).” One of the biggest problems in the church in America is our high standard of living with respect to others around us. We neglect the commands of Jesus who says we are to love our neighbor as our self. When asked who is my neighbor Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan who helped a “stranger”. If the church is made up of followers of Christ they should follow his teaching with regards to strangers who may be poor as did the early church and the world took notice.

  3. sharon says

    Hi Craig,
    Just read your blog for the first time… I go to a small church (250 people) and the congregation seems to be filled with young parents who are having babies. Someone is always having a baby! I mean I have 3 grandchildren, the newest is 2 months old. I am working full time and my question is: even though the church is always letting us know we can help with meals etc.. if we want to, I am wondering if this is something we should do? I mean how many meals can I make and not be neglecting my own family and draining my own finances? It took me an entire afternoon to make just one meal, and it costs $$ to do this with 4 courses (salad, main course, bread, dessert). That was just 1 meal for 1 family. The babies just keep coming and so do the requests for meals.. who should help with this and what does the Bible say about it? Thanks!

    • says

      Sharon,
      I think that providing meals and gifts is a great way to show the love of Christ. That said, if a person isn’t physically or financially able to do so then I’d suggest they gracefully decline to participate. Also, if the opportunity to serve is becoming burdensome I’d consider spending some time in prayer and self reflection to see if a person has a generous heart. Saying either yes or no would both be appropriate responses.

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