We see them all the time. More of them in big cities. But some of them around our smaller towns. Sometimes we can make them invisible.
But should we give them our money? If we think they may misuse it, is there still a way to help?
In the time of the New Testament Church, Roman currency allowed the church to operate on a more liquid basis with wealthier members providing for those in need.
In the Jerusalem church, “All things were common property to them . . . . For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.”
Some point to the early Jerusalem church to claim validity for socialism in government, but two facts refute that claim on its face. First, the Church is not the government. The two institutions have different purposes. The Church, disregarding borders and nationalities, is to proclaim the Gospel and provide necessities for the needy.
The government is to protect its citizens from internal and external threats and to protect freedom.
Second, there is no other biblical record of such giving regarding the other early churches. If this style of giving were a biblical mandate, we would read of it beyond the book of Acts.
In the New Testament Church, there was no big expense for maintenance of a building—they met in each other’s homes. There was certainly no mortgage, and the pastor’s (or pastors’) salary and benefits were needs based and not contingent upon the number of degrees earned or the years of experience garnered.
The Church lived on the resources of its people. The people met each other’s needs. The Apostles could concentrate on “giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” rather than promising the congregation that if they give money to God—translated as that church or this ministry—God will reward them with material wealth.
Much that troubles the American Church today is not that we pay pastors’ salaries (“The laborer is worthy of his wages.”) It’s not that we congregate in church buildings. (God instructed the Israelites to build, first, the tabernacle, then, the temple.)
Much that troubles us today is that we have lost our focus of ministry. The early Church proclaimed Christ risen and met the needs of the poor. Many churches do a fabulous job of declaring Christ in His fullness as God and Redeemer. Many churches do a fabulous job of ministering to those in need. We need to do both and more.
But many individual churchgoers feel that their obligation to help the poor is fulfilled once they pass the offering plate to the next congregant.
Even churches with large staffs of well-paid, devoted servants cannot do the task set before every individual within the Church. God calls us—each one of us—to meet needs.
He calls us to meet the needs of those who cross our paths daily. And when we ask God to use us, to show us others with needs so that we can meet them, He will.
We can start with that prayer for guidance and by being more creative about tithing. Certainly, we are to support the ministry that declares Christ’s resurrection and helps to feed our spirits, but setting aside a portion for people in need will free up funds to allow us to personally become benefactors in our neighborhoods and communities.
And if you don’t feel comfortable giving cash, a fast food gift card is only good for food.
Generous hands are blessed hands because they give bread to the poor. Proverbs 22: 9 (The Message)
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